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Full text of "The Old Testament: Its Intent and Content"

THE OLD TESTAMENT 

ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 



INCLUDING THE APOCRYPHA 



By 



Griffith A. Hamlin, Th. D 



CHRISTOPHER 




THE AUTHOR 

Rev. Griffith A. Hamlin is a native 
of Virginia. He received his educa- 
tion from four different colleges and 
schools of theology. He received his 
A.B. degree from Atlantic Christian 
College, Wilson, North Carolina; the 
M.R.E. from The College of The 
Bible, Lexington, Kentucky; Duke 
University conferred upon him the 
B.D. degree; and the Iliff School of 
Theology, Denver, Colorado, the 
Th.D. Dr. Hamlin is listed in Who's 
Who in the South and Southwest, 
and in the Directory of American 
Scholars. At present he is serving as 
minister of the First Christian Church, 
Goldsboro, North Carolina. Although 
this is the author's first published 
book, he is well-known for the numer- 
ous articles he has written which 
have appeared in his denominational 
magazines. 




CAROLINA 
lONARY CONVENTION 

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THE OLD TESTAMENT 
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 
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THE OLD TESTAMENT 

ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 

INCLUDING THE APOCRYPHA 



BY 

GRIFFITH A. HAMLIN 




THE CHRISTOPHER PUBLISHING HOUSE 
BOSTON, U.S.A. 



^ A i / j '' ' ■ ■ DISCIPLSANA LEGRARY 

"■■ ", ,■ ^ ■ ATLANTIC CHRiSTl/AN COLLEGi 

hJ^^ ■ WiLSOriN. c. 



COPYRIGHT © 1958 
BY THE CHRISTOPHER PUBLISHING HOUSE 
\ Library of Congress Catalogue Card Number 58-8663 



PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 



CONTENTS 

Introduction 9 

Genesis 13 

Exodus 17 

Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy 19 

Joshua 22 

Judges 24 

Ruth 26 

I Samuel 28 

II Samuel 30 

I Kings 32 

II Kings 36 

I & II Chronicles 39 

Ezra 41 

Nehemiah 44 

Esther 47 

Job 51 

Psalms 54 

Proverbs S6 

Eccleslastes 58 

The Song of Solomon 60 

Isaiah 61 

Jeremiah 6S 

Lamentations 67 

Ezeklel 69 

Daniel 72 

Hosea 76 

Joel 79 

Amos $1 

7 



8 CONTENTS 

Obadiah 83 

Jonah 85 

Micah 87 

Nahum 89 

Habakkuk ,. 91 

Zephanlah 93 

Haggai 95 

Zecharlah 97 

MalachI 101 

The Books of the Apocrypha 103 



INTRODUCTION 

- , i ^ . • ,■■•-' 

The books of the Old Testament are a widely 
varied group. Their contents were written over a period 
of more than 1000 years — from 1250 B.C. to about 
150 B.C. Consequently, they represent different levels 
of social, cultural and religious expression. 

The purpose of this book is to serve as a guide for 
the better understanding of the intent and content of 
the books of the Old Testament. A brief statement 
regarding the conditions surrounding each book, and 
a concise summary of its contents should help a student 
find a fuller appreciation of these books that are an 
integral part of the Judao-Christian heritage. 

The early Hebrews were the first to find the ri^ht 
God; but it took many centuries to acquire the ri^ht 
portrait, or concept, of that God. Through the cen- 
turies the portrait of God was brought into clearer 
focus by the prophets who sought to show that God 
was concerned with such things as justice, mercy, right- 
eousness and love. 

The Old Testament usually is divided Into three 
main divisions: Law, Prophets, and Writings. 1. The 
books of the Law consist of the first five books — 
Genesis through Deuteronomy. They are commonly 
known as the Pentateuch. They were canonized — 
declared sacred Scripture — about 450 B.C., after 
which no more changes were allowed. 2. The Prophetic 
Books are subdivided into two groups; (a) the former 

9 



10 INTRODUCTION 

prophets — Joshua, Judges, I & II Samuel, I & II 
Kings; and (b) the latter prophets — Isaiah, Jeremiah, 
Ezekiel and the Book of the Twelve (also known as 
the minor prophets, Hosea through Malachi). The 
books of the prophets were canonized about 200 B.C. 
3. The Writings consist of a miscellany of independent 
works. Some are short stories like Ruth and Esther; 
some are devotional literature like Psalms; one is 
called a prophetic book — Daniel. These books of 
the Writings came into popularity after 200 B.C. 
For nearly three hundred years these miscellaneous 
writings were collected and edited, but not canonized. 
It is well to note that Jesus speaks about the "Law 
and the Prophets** but never about the "Writings." 
Their authority had not yet been established. But 
twenty years after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. 
a council of Jewish leaders was called at Jamnia. At 
that time the Writings were declared to be official and 
complete. Thus, the canonization of the Old Testa- 
ment came to a close in 90 A.D. 

The history of the canon is a fascinating study in 
itself, and is worthy of more space than this. Such a 
detailed study, however, is beyond the purpose and 
plan of this work. This book is content to serve as a 
guide to students and instructors in an introductory 
Bible course, in leadership training schools and similar 
groups of people who desire to attempt more than 
just a casual reading of the Old Testament. The 
questions at the end of each chapter are designed to 
lift up the essential elements of the book. 



THE OLD TESTAMENT 

ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 



GENESIS 

The word Genesis means ^'the beginning." The 
first Chapter of Genesis tells about the creation of 
the world; the second chapter, about the creation of 
man. No attempt is made to give a scientific explana- 
tion as to how God created man and the universe. The 
chapters are concerned mainly that God be given 
credit for creation. The first words set the theme: "In 
the beginning God." 

Notice the status which God gives to man. Man is 
made in God's image, and is given dominion over 
all other creatures on the earth. But man is to re- 
member that he is a creature of God, and subject to 
God's desires. As the story unfolds he refuses to 
obey God, and thereby sins. After generations of 
wickedness a great flood covers the earth. Noah her- 
oically saves one pair of all living creatures. The 
story of the flood is used as a vehicle to describe 
God's desire to give man another opportunity to live 
up to the high calling which God originally had given 
to him. 

Genesis has a composite authorship. From many 
sources, editors selected the narratives which had 
the most religious significance and which could be 
used to show God's hand in history in a particular 
way. Investigation has led to the discovery of at least 
four separate collections of narratives in the first five 
books of the Bible — commonly called the Penta- 



14 THE OLD TESTAMENT 

tcuch. The letter "J" is given to that portion which 
seems to be written by a Judean. Southern (Judean) 
names and places are used most often. "J" is re- 
garded as the oldest of the four documents — written 
between 950 and 850 B.C. The second is labeled "E" 
because of its use of the word Elohim for Jehovah. 
It is presumed to have been written around 750 B.C. 
by a writer in the Northern kingdom of Israel. The 
third documentary source is "D," for Deuteronomy, 
believed to have been written about 650 B.C. The 
fourth document, "P," was so symbolized because of 
the great amount of priestly legislation which it con- 
tains. This portion was written after the Babylonian 
exile, 450 B.C. 

The composition of the Pentateuch is a study with- 
in itself for those who desire to pursue it further. It 
is sufficient here to recognize the existence of at least 
four documents which were combined, in part, and 
edited at different periods to emphasize a particular 
aspect of Hebrew religion. 

Four generations of famous men — Abraham, Isaac, 
Jacob, and Joseph — consume the contents from 
chapter 12 to the end of the book. Abraham is re- 
garded as the spiritual father of the Hebrews. With 
his wife, Sarah, and his nephew. Lot, he sets forth to 
journey from his native land, Ur of Chaldees, to the 
land of Canaan. Abraham's faith is tried on many 
occasions, but he remains faithful to his covenant with 
God. Probably the most well known test of his faith 
is the account of his willingness to offer his son, Isaac, 
as a sacrifice (chapter 22). 

Son Isaac and his wife, Rebekah, move into the land 
of the Philistines to avoid famine. There he prospers 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 15 

and is the envy of King Abimelech. After a dispute 
over the digging of wells Isaac and Abimelech make a 
covenant at Beersheba. 

Isaac's son, Jacob, is not a very likeable person in 
his earlier years. His trickery of his brother, Esau, 
and his deception of his own father places him in an 
unfavorable light. But in a dream at Bethel, Jacob has 
a vision that becomes a turning point in his life. He 
sees a ladder extending from heaven to earth with 
angels travelling up and down. God speaks to him and 
renews the covenant He had made with Abraham and 
Isaac. There follows his courtship and marriage, first 
to Leah and then to Rachel, daughters of Laban. 

The most complex narrative is that of Joseph, be- 
ginning with chapter 37 and continuing through the re- 
mainder of the book. It is an explanation, in story 
form, of how and why the Hebrews originally got 
into Egypt and subsequently into slavery there. Sold 
into slavery by his jealous brothers, Joseph dramati- 
cally rises from slavery to prominence in Egypt. Cast 
into prison upon the false accusations of Potiphar's 
wife, Joseph becomes famous for his ability to interpret 
dreams. This ability wins him his freedom and a posi- 
tion in the Egyptian government. Joseph's brothers 
come to Egypt to request grain from the government 
storage bins, under the supervision of their long lost 
brother. At first concealing his identity, Joseph finally 
reveals that he is their brother whom they had sought 
to destroy. He forgives their earlier treachery and 
persuades them and his father Jacob to move into 
Egypt. They settle in the fertile territory of Goshen. 
Genesis closes with the death of Joseph and the He- 



16 THE OLD TESTAMENT 

brews firmly established in their adopted country of 
Egypt. 

Suggestions for Study 

1. Why is Abraham often called the spiriutal father 
of the Hebrews? 

2. Identify the following persons: Noah, Lot, Esau, 
Laban, Rachel, Leah, Benjamin, Potiphar. 

3. Identify the following places: Bethel, Canaan, Ur 
of Chaldees, Paniel, Machpelah. 

4. What does it mean by a composite authorship of 
the Pentateuch? Briefly describe the sources. 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 17 



EXODUS 

The plight of the Hebrews in Egypt proved to be 
very unpleasant in future years. The narrator explains 
it by saying that a new king arose in Egypt who did 
not know about Joseph and his good works in the 
time of famine. Under the fear of having a subversive 
race of people within their land, the Egyptian Pharaoh 
put the Hebrews in a condition of servitude. 

Moses becomes the central figure through most of 
the book. Found in the river by the daughter of 
Pharaoh, Moses is raised as a Prince in the court. 
However, he is called by God to be the great deliverer 
of his people. He is very reluctant to accept the re- 
sponsibility. God promises him the help of Aaron as a 
spokesman. Also, he is taught to perform certain 
miracles as a help in overcoming Pharaoh. His en- 
counters with Pharaoh, the plagues sent upon the na- 
tion, and his subsequent leadership of the Hebrews 
out of Egypt consume a major part of the book. Chap- 
ters 7 through 10 describe the various plagues sent 
upon Egypt as the Pharaoh refuses to let the Hebrews 
go free. Chapters 12 and 13 describe the origin of the 
Passover. The angel of death is to destroy the first-born 
children in the Egyptian homes. But how will the 
angel know which homes are Hebrew, and pass over 
them? Each Hebrew home is instructed to slay a lamb 
and wipe its blood on the door posts as the sign that 
a Hebrew family resides within. The flesh of the lamb 



18 THE OLD TESTAMENT 

is to be cooked and eaten that same night. Thus, begins 
one of the important festivals of the Hebrews. 

Miraculously crossing the Red Sea, Moses leads 
his people to freedom. Chapter 15 contains the re- 
joicing songs of Moses and Miriam as they praise 
Jehovah for deliverance. Coming to Mt. Sinai, Moses 
hears God call him. He receives the ten commandments 
(chapter 20) and a great number of additional rules 
and regulations for the conduct of the Hebrews In 
their social, civil, moral and religious life, (chapters 
21-34). Coming down from the mountain, Moses is 
grieved to find that his people have made the Image of 
a calf to symbolize the god from whom they seek 
help. (Apparently, this is the worship of Baalism which 
the Hebrews picked up in Egypt. Baalism was the reli- 
gion of fertility, and was symbolized by a bull.) Moses* 
indignation at the people's idolatry leads him to burn 
the idol, pour the ashes in the river, and then compel 
the people to drink of the water. The final chapters 
describe the construction of the ark of the covenant and 
the tabernacle. 

Questions For Study 

1. What is the origin of the Passover? 

2. What sin did the Hebrews commit while Moses was 
on Mount Sinai? 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 19 



LEVITICUS, NUMBERS, DEUTERONOMY 

The book of Leviticus continues the list of laws 
and ordinances which God instructs Moses to give to 
the people and to Aaron, the high priest. Such laws 
are far too numerous to discuss in detail. They include 
a variety of subjects such as vows, obedience, servants, 
feasts, the year of Jubilee, leprosy, the day of atone- 
ment, the tithe, etc. In future generations, these laws 
are to be vigorously upheld by the strict Hebrew 
prophets and priests. 

The book of Numbers derives its name from the 
numbering of all the Hebrews by family and tribe. It 
might be regarded as the first census ever taken. It 
includes a registration of all young men over twenty 
years who are physically fit for military service. Actu- 
ally, this census of the people is but a minor portion 
of the book, even though its name is derived therefrom. 
Perhaps the book best could be described as an effort 
to relate what happens to the Israelites between the 
experience at Mt. Sinai and their entrance to the land 
of Canaan. Chapters 13 and 14 contain the report of 
the spies which Moses sent to search the land of 
Canaan. The Amalekites in the South, the Hittites, 
Jebusites, and Amorites in the mountains, and the 
Canaanites along the coast appear to be a formidable 
foe. Many of the Hebrews turn against Moses, declar- 
ing that they would rather have remained in slavery In 
Egypt. Only Joshua speaks encouragingly of their 
plight. He tries to inspire and encourage the faltering 



20 THE OLD TESTAMENT 

people. As punishment for their murmering against 
Moses, God declares that none of the present company 
of Hebrews will live to enter Canaan with the excep- 
tion of Joshua and Caleb (chapter 14). Chapter 33 
reviews Israel's route from Egypt to Canaan. Chapters 
34 and 35 fix certain boundaries for each Hebrew tribe. 
Also, there is selected certain cities for the Levites and 
for refuge. 

The book of Deuteronomy has the distinction of be- 
ing the first book accepted as Holy Scripture. Yet, the 
book largely Is a reiteration of some important experi- 
ences of the past. For example, In the fifth chapter 
there Is repeated the ten commandments. From chapter 
6 through 30 Moses continues to repeat many laws and 
ordinances and exhort the people to obedience. God 
allows Moses to view the promised land from atop Mt. 
PIsgah. There he dies, and Is burled in the valley of 
Moab. Leadership of the Hebrews then passes to 
Joshua, the son of Nun. 

The importance of Deuteronomy is enhanced by 
the fact that It Is the "Book of the law" which King 
Joslah finds in the temple in 621 B. C. He uses that 
book as the basis for a sweeping reform in the kingdom, 
based upon a strict observance of the laws of Moses. 
Thus, Deuteronomy might be regarded as the first 
book accepted as Holy Scripture. This reformation of 
Joslah is discussed more fully in the section on the book 
of Isaiah. 

Questions for Study 

1. What was contained In the Ark of the Covenant? 

2. What was the report from the spies sent to Can- 
aan? 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 21 

3. Identify the following people: Jethro, Miriam, 
Aaron, Caleb. 

4. Identify the following places : Mt. Sinai, Mt. Nebo. 

5. What Is the meaning of the word Deuteronomy? 

6. What Is the Importance of Deuteronomy for King 
JosiahIn621 B. C? 



22 THE OLD TESTAMENT 



JOSHUA 

The book of Joshua provides the sequel to the 
pentateuch narratives described previously. Because of 
its close literary kinship with the pentateuch, it often 
Is classified with It from a literary point of view there- 
by forming a Hexateuch. The J.E.D. and P. sources 
are evident In this book even as they are in the first five. 
Another way to classify It Is as one of the former 
prophets, viz. Joshua, Judges, Samuel (I&II), Kings 
(I&II) . The events It describes take place around 1250- 
1225 B. C. 

With the death of Moses, Joshua becomes the leader 
of the Hebrews. The opening verses of the book nar- 
rate God's command to Joshua to cross the Jordan 
river and enter the promised land. Spies are sent Into 
Jericho and are hidden by Rahab. At the appointed 
time, Joshua gives orders for the priests to lead the 
way, carrying the Ark of the Covenant with them. The 
people are instructed to follow at a given distance 
behind the Ark. The river miraculously opens when 
the Ark enters the water, and the people cross safely. 
Twelve stones are piled up in the middle of the river 
bed as a memorial to the miraculous crossing. The city 
of Jericho is captured amidst the shouts and noise of 
the trumpets. There are given two different descrip- 
tions of the capture of the city. The Hebrews are within 
the borders of Canaan I There still remains the task 
of conquering the remainder of the territory and es- 
tablishing homes. Chapter 9 describes the trick which 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 23 

the Gibeonites sought to play on Israel. Their treachery 
Is discovered, and they are punished. In chapter 10 is 
the familiar account of Joshua commanding the sun 
and moon to stand still while the Hebrews defeat the 
Amorltes. Joshua and his army continue to be victori- 
ous until the whole land is subdued. Each Hebrew tribe 
Is alloted a portion of the conquered land. Chapters 
13 through 21 define the territory alloted to each tribe. 
Stricken In age, Joshua gathers all the tribes to 
Shechem and gives his farewell address (chapter 24). 
He narrates God's leadership since the days of Abra- 
ham, and urges the people to put away all foreign gods 
and serve only Jehovah. The book closes with the death 
and burial of Joshua and Eleazer, the priest. 

Questions for Study 

1. What preparation did Joshua make for crossing 
the Jordan? 

2. Describe the memorial erected to the crossing of 
the Jordan. 

3. What did the Gibeonites do that aroused Joshua's 
anger? 

4. What does It mean by cities of refuge? 

5. What was the main theme of Joshua's farewell 
message? 



24 THE OLD TESTAMENT 



JUDGES 

The Book of Judges is a history of the period from 
Joshua to Samuel. The events described are during 
the 12th and 11th centuries B.C. Chapter two de- 
clares that in the generation after Joshua the Hebrews 
did not respect God nor the great works He had done 
for them. The narrator discloses that they forsook 
the God of their fathers, and began following Baal 
and other gods that were worshiped by the neighbor- 
ing peoples. As a result, he declares that God is punish- 
ing them through the warfare with the Canaanites. 
Deborah and Barak succeed to some degree in hold- 
ing back the enemy. Gideon proves himself to be ac- 
ceptable to God, and is given victory over the Midian- 
ites (chapter 7). He destroys the altar of Baal which 
had been built by his own father (6:25-32). The peo- 
ple of Israel plead with Gideon to become their ruler, 
but he refuses. There follows a great number of men 
who seek the position of ruler. After Gideon's death 
his son Abimelech goes to Shechem to his mother's 
relatives, and enlists their support in making him 
king (chapter 9). The prophet Jothan hears about 
his plans, and tells the parable about the trees that 
desired a king over them. The Shechemites soon quarrel 
with Abimelech. He destroys Shechem, and then is 
killed. 

Of all the judges that rule Israel, probably the 
most familiar is Samson (chapters 14-16). His great 
strength is evidenced by his slaying a lion. His enemies 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 25 

seek to find the secret of his strength. Delilah makes 
three unsuccessful efforts to trick him into telling his 
secret. Finally, she learns from him that his long 
hair is the secret of his strength. His hair cut short 
by Delilah, Samson becomes weak and is captured. He 
is imprisoned and his eyes put out. In due time his 
hair returns to full growth, and his strength returns. 
On trial he pulls down the pillars, killing himself and 
his enemies. 

The book closes with the statement that since there 
was no king in Israel every man did what was right in 
his own eyes. Among the other judges listed in the 
book are Othniel, Deborah, Tola, Jair, Elon, Abdon, 
Jephthah. 

Questions for Study 

1 . What were Gideon's accomplishments ? 

2. What was Jothan's parable? What was its pur- 
pose? 

3. What was Samson's riddle? Its meaning? 

4. Identify the following : Abimelech, Jephthah's vow, 
Delilah, Shechem, Gibeah. 



26 THE OLD TESTAMENT 



RUTH 

The story of Ruth is a welcome change from the 
warfare and bloodshed that surrounds it in other 
books of the Bible. The book of Ruth is like an Oasis 
in a dry and thirsty land. All unpleasant traits are eli- 
minated. Even the religious faith is devoid of all cere- 
monies and doctrines — so different from the books 
of the Law, with their meticulous ritual. 

The setting of the story is in the days of the Judges. 
Elimelech, his wife, Naomi, and their two sons, 
Mahlon and Chilion move from Bethlehem into the 
neighboring country of Moab to escape famine. There 
the two sons marry two Moabite women — Orpah and 
Ruth. Shortly thereafter both boys die and also their 
father, Elimelech. Only Naomi and her two daugh- 
ters-in-law are left. The famine subsides in her home 
country and Naomi declares that she must return to 
Bethlehem. She urges Orpah and Ruth to remain in 
their own country of Moab and begin life anew. Orpah 
remains but Ruth declares that she will return to Beth- 
lehem with her mother-in-law. "Intreat me not to 
leave thee . . . for whither thou goest I will go . . .Thy 
people shall be my people, and thy God my God: 
where thou diest I will die, and there will I be buried" 
(1 :16). So, Ruth and Naomi return to Bethlehem. 

In Bethlehem it is the season of harvest. Ruth goes 
to work in the field of Boaz, a wealthy man who also 
is a relative of Naomi's deceased husband. Upon learn- 
ing the true identity of Ruth, Boaz makes an effort to 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 27 

ease her work (2:9-16). Aft*r a brief love affair, as- 
sisted by Naomi, Boaz purchases from a closer kins- 
man of Elimelecli the right to be the support of Naomi, 
and Ruth. Boaz and Ruth are married. The closing 
verses trace their descendants through three genera- 
tions. It is shown that Boaz and Ruth are the great 
grandparents of David, Israel's most famous and popu- 
lar king. 

The writing of this story takes place between 450 
and 250 B.C. In days of strong feeling against foreign 
marriages this story dares to suggest that even the il- 
lustrious King David had a non Jewish woman in his 
close ancestry. The Book of Ruth belongs to the third 
division of the Old Testament called the Writings. 

Questions for Study 

1. What is the purpose of the story of Ruth? 

2. Why did Boaz consult a closer kinsman of the 
deceased Elimelech? 



28 THE OLD TESTAMENT 



I SAMUEL 

This book opens with the account of the birth of 
Samuel, son of Elkanah and Hannah. In his infancy he 
is taken to the temple at Shiloh and dedicated to the 
Lord in the presence of Eli the priest. On becoming 
a young man he is called of God to be a prophet. He 
also is a judge, and leads the Hebrews to victory over 
the Philistines. 

In contrast to the righteousness of Samuel, Chapter 
8 declares that the sons of Samuel are perverse and 
dishonest judges. The people request Samuel to give 
them a king like the other nations have. At first he re- 
fuses their demand; later he obeys their wish but warns 
them of the danger of establishing a kingdom. The 
subsequent meeting of Samuel and Saul, and his anoint- 
ing Saul as the first king of Israel, is one of the better 
known narratives in the book (chapters 9 and 10). 
Thus, the last of the judges anoints the first of the 
kings. 

Saul is described by the narrator as being far from 
perfect. Seeing his open sins, Samuel finally tells Saul 
that God no longer finds him acceptable as king, and 
that another ruler must take his place ( chapter 16). Ac- 
cordingly, God instructs Samuel to go to Bethlehem to 
the house of Jesse, and there he is to select a new 
king from among Jesse's sons. David is selected and 
anointed by Samuel. It is some time, however, until 
his kingship officially is proclaimed by the people. 
In the meantime he shows his strength and courage as 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 29 

a member of Saul's army, and in other ways attaches 
himself more closely to the court of King Saul. 

Saul becomes more and more jealous of David's 
popularity with the people. David is befriended by 
Saul's son, Jonathan, who warns him of his father's 
intention to kill him (chapters 18-20). The friendship 
of the two men, David and Jonathan, is one of loyalty 
that is unsurpassed in the Old Testament. David mar- 
ries Saul's daughter, Michal, and Saul's fury further 
is Increased. Michal discovers her father's plot to kill 
her husband, and she helps him to escape from the 
city. David now is an outlaw and Is hunted by King 
Saul. David is cunning, and more than once is in a 
position to kill Saul, but he spares his life. In despair 
Saul goes to a witch to learn his future. He askes 
her for a message from the deceased prophet Samuel 
who made him king in the beginning. Saul is told that 
he is to perish, and that his kingdom is to be given to 
David (chapter 28). The book closes with the death 
of Saul and three of his sons. 

Questions for Study 

1. What part did Samuel play in the selection of 
Israel's first two kings? 

2. For what two reasons did the people request a 
king to be made their ruler? 

3. Describe the friendship between Jonathan and 
David. 

4. What message did the witch of Endor give to 
Saul? 

5. Identify the following: Elkanah, Hannah, Eli, 
Amalek. 



30 THE OLD TESTAMENT 



II SAMUEL 

David, the outlaw, grieves at the death of Saul and 
Jonathan. He is told by God to go to Hebron, in 
Judah, and there be crowned king. In the northern 
tribes of Israel, however, Ishbosheth, son of Saul, is 
king. Ishbosheth Is slain, and David becomes king of 
Israel and Judah (chapter 4). For the first time the 
kingdom is united under one king. He moves his place 
of residence from Hebron to Jerusalem, thus beginning 
the custom of making Jerusalem the capital city. 

David succeeds In unifying the kingdom and con- 
quering hostile neighbors. He shows kindness to the 
lame Mephlbosheth, son of Jonathan, by returning 
to him his father's possessions and also letting him 
dwell In the king's palace (chapter 9). However, 
David is not all kindness. His sin of taking Bathsheba 
for his wife, and having her husband slain, is one of 
the more sordid stories of his life (Chapter 11). 
Nathan's parable of the poor man who possessed one 
ewe lamb brings self rebuke to David. Even though 
deeply penitent, he leiarns that he must reap the 
bitter fruit of his wickedness; namely, that there is 
to be rebellion and bloodshed within his immediate 
family. Events soon happen as predicted by Nathan. 
David's son, Absalom, rebels against his father and 
conquers Jerusalem (chapter 16). Within a few 
months Absalom is killed in battle, and David returns 
to the city (chapter 19). A registration of all males 
is ordered by David. God shows displeasure with the 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 31 

registration, and punishes David by sending plagues 
upon the land. The book closes with David purchas- 
ing a threshing floor and oxen which he uses as a 
place of worship to stay the hand of God from bring- 
ing more plagues upon Israel. 

Questions for Study 

1. Describe David's rise from king of Judah to king 
of Judah and Israel. 

2. How was David convicted of his sin against Uriah? 
What consequences resulted? 

3. Identify: Ishbosheth, Mephibosheth, Joab, Abner, 
Shimei, Absalom. 



32 THE OLD TESTAMENT 



I KINGS 

When David becomes old and broken in health, his 
throne is usurped by Adonljah. In reprisal, the 
prophet Nathan and Bathsheba prevail upon David 
to proclaim Solomon as the rightful king. David dies 
shortly thereafter, and Solomon rules in his stead. 
One of Solomon's first acts as king is to slay Adonijah, 
Joab and Shimei, and to banish the priest Abiathar in 
retaliation for their plot to usurp the throne of his 
father (chapter 2). 

Solomon's prayer to God for an understanding heart 
(chapter 3) is one of the familiar events in his early 
life. Because he seeks wisdom more than wealth the 
Lord tells him that wisdom and wealth shall be his. A 
demonstration of his wisdom immediately follows. 
Two women claiming the same child ask Solomon to 
decide which is the real mother. Calling for his sword 
he threatens to cut the child in half. One of the 
women pleads for the child's life to be spared. Solomon 
declares her to be the rightful mother. A list of the 
provincial governors under Solomon's rule is found in 
Chapter 4, followed by the building and dedication 
of the temple (chapters 5 through 9). 

In Chapter 11 the narrator declares that Solomon 
has taken many foreign wives who remain devotees 
of the gods of their country. Because Solomon builds 
shrines for his wives to worship their pagan gods the 
Lord tells Solomon that he has broken his covenant. 
As a result his kingdom is to be divided at his death. 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 33 

From that time, the story of the Kings Is full of in- 
trigue and bloodshed. Jeroboam is told by the prophet 
Ahijah that he is to become the new king. Hearing of 
the plot, Solomon seeks to slay Jeroboam, but he 
escapes into Egypt where he remains until after 
Solomon's death. 

Upon Solomon's death, his son, Rehoboam ascends 
the throne. Jeroboam returns from Egypt and joins 
with a group of people who call upon King Rehoboam 
requesting that he make their burdens lighter than 
they were under the reign of his father, Solomon. The 
narrator declares that the older men of his court 
urge him to accept the petition of the people, but 
the younger men of his court urge him to reject their 
pleas. Upon his refusal of their plea, ten Northern 
tribes revolt and make Jeroboam their king with his 
capital in Shechem (chapter 12). They become known 
as Israel. The tribe of Judah remains under Rehoboam, 
with headquarters in Jerusalem. Such is the beginning 
of the division of the kingdom which is to remain 
divided for several centuries, finally resulting in the 
capture of both groups by foreign powers. 

Jeroboam realizes that he must overcome a religious 
and sociological disadvantage in his rule over the 
Northern tribes (Israel). Every year good Jews from 
all the tribes journey to Jerusalem to make sacrifice 
in the temple. Jeroboam realizes that if such practice 
continues, his subjects will mingle and mix with the 
people of Jerusalem (and the Southern kingdom) 
every year, perhaps causing them to give back their 
allegiance to Rehoboam (12:27). Accordingly, Jero- 
boam makes two shrines — one in Dan, another 
in Bethel — and encourages his people to make 



34 THE OLD TESTAMENT 

their yearly sacrifice in either of those two places in- 
stead of taking the long trip to Jerusalem. The nar- 
rator declares that this act is a sin, and that Jeroboam 
never is to escape from its consequences. A further 
evidence of God's displeasure with Jeroboam is seen 
in the account of his hand becoming withered when he 
seeks to arrest a prophet from Judah who proclaims 
that his illegal altars will be burned, and the ashes 
scattered (chapter 13). Another illustration of God's 
displeasure with Jeroboam is portrayed in the death 
of his son, Abijah. At his illness his mother goes to 
the prophet Ahijah for advice. (Ahijah is the prophet 
who originally declared Jeroboam king). Now, how- 
ever, Ahijah declares that Jeroboam no longer is 
pleasing to God, and that his son is to die immediately 
upon the return of the mother. Twenty two years is 
given as the length of Jeroboam's reign. At his death 
he is succeeded by his son Nadab who rules for two 
years. 

In the Southern kingdom of Judah, Rehoboam 
reigns for 17 years. He is succeeded by his son Abijah 
(Abijam) for two years. The next king, Asa, rules the 
longest term of any — 38 years. He is followed by his 
son, Jehoshaphat. Both the Northern and Southern 
kingdoms are plagued by a series of kings for a shorter 
or longer duration. The North has 19 kings during its 
existence of 250 years. The South (Judah) has 20 kings 
in its 390 years. During some of that time the two king- 
doms are at war with each other. 

In the North, the sixth king, Omri, is credited with 
building the city of Samaria and moving the capital to 
it from Shechem. He is followed by Ahab who rules 
for 22 years. Ahab's reign is full of intrigue and blood- 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 3S 

shed. It is during this period that the prophet Elijah 
has his encounter with Ahab and Jezebel, and with the 
priests of Baal on Mt. Carmel (chapters 18, 19). Ahab 
is followed by his son, Ahazlah. 

The Southern kingdom has longer reigns during the 
corresponding period. Asa's 38 years Is followed by 
Jehoshaphat's 25 years. He Is followed by Jehoram 
(Joram) for 4 years. 

Questions for Study 

1. What led to the division of the kingdom shortly 
after Solomon's death? 

2. What is given as Jeroboam's motive In building 
shrines at Dan and Bethel? 

3. Describe the encounter between Elijah and the 
priests of Baal. 

4. Identify: Jeroboam, Rehoboam, Asa, Jehoshaphat, 
Elisha, Naboth. 



36 THE OLD TESTAMENT 



II KINGS 

The second book of Kings opens with the account 
of the injury and death of Ahaziah, king of Israel. He 
is followed by his brother, Jehoram. (It is very con- 
fusing to note that at the same time the king of Judah 
also was Jehoram. Many similarities of names in the 
two kingdoms make it necessary to examine the con- 
text closely in order to identify the person whose name 
is listed). Beginning with chapter 4, the prophet 
Elisha is a central character. Several miracles are at- 
tributed to him; namely, increasing the oil supply of 
a widow, saving the life of a child, feeding one hun- 
dred men with twenty loaves, healing Naaman's lepro- 
sy, and making an ax head float on water. 

In the southern kingdom, Jehoram succeeds his 
father, Jehoshaphat. His wife is the daughter of Ahab, 
the late king of the Northern tribe (8:18). He is 
succeeded by Ahaziah (Jehoahaz) who rules for 1 
year. During that short term he succeeds in uniting 
his army with that of the northern king (Jehoram) 
in war against the Syrians under the leadership of king 
Hazael. The prophet Elisha anoints Jehu king of the 
northern kingdom. He slays both king Jehoram in the 
North and king Ahaziah in the South. Through crafti- 
ness Jehu has Ahab's 70 sons beheaded — thus ending 
a threat to his power. Then he slays the priests and 
worshippers of Baal (chapter 10). After 28 years, 
Jehu is succeeded by Jehoahaz. For the remaining hun- 
dred years' existence of the northern kingdom, nine 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 37 

kings reign — finally ending with its capture by the 
Assyrians in 722 B.C. 

In the south, with the slaying of King Ahaziah by 
Jehu, Ahaziah's mother, Athaliah, reigns as queen of 
Judah for 6 years. She is overthrown and her grand- 
son, 7 year old Jehoash ( Joash) rules. For forty years 
he rules in what is described as a good reign (chapter 
11). He is portrayed as desiring peace at any price. 
When the king of Syria begins to make war against 
Jerusalem Jehoash turns him back by giving him much 
of the gold and jewels in the palace. At his death his 
son Amaziah rules for 28 years. Amaziah is followed 
by Azariah (Uzziah, the close friend of the prophet 
Isaiah), who, in turn is followed by Jotham, Ahaz and 
Hezekiah. 

It is during Hezekiah's reign in Judah that the As- 
syrians rise to prominence and capture the Northern 
kingdom of Israel under king Hoshea in 722 B.C. 
In chapter 17 the narrator describes the sins of the 
people which led to their capture. Hezekiah, in the 
South, is described as a wise king, reigning for 28 years 
(chapter 18). He is succeeded by Manasseh who re- 
opens the altars of Baal, and is described as a wicked 
king. He is followed by Ammon who is slain, and is 
followed by Josiah. It is during Josiah's reign that the 
temple is repaired and the "Book of the Law" dis- 
covered and made a guide to strict reforms in the king- 
dom. (The prophet Isaiah is one of Josiah's support- 
ers in his reform movement). Killed in battle against 
the Egyptians at Megiddo, Josiah is succeeded by his 
son Jehoahaz (or Shallum) who reigns only three 
months (chapter 23). By this time the Egyptian phar- 
aoh controlled Judah as a vassel state. Consequently 
the pharaoh replaces Jehoahaz with Jehoiakim who is 



38 THE OLD TESTAMENT 

willing to give gold and silver to Egypt. At his death 
11 years later, his son, Jehoiachin (or Jeconiah) reigns 
3 months. 

Babylon now has come to be stronger than Assyria, 
and is seen as the mortal enemy of Judah. In 597 B.C. 
King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon carries away all 
the strongest men and women from Jerusalem to Bab- 
ylon. King Jehoiachin is among them. A puppet king, 
Zedekiah, is put on the throne in Jerusalem (chapter 
24) . Zedekiah is said to be the uncle of King Nebuchad- 
nezzar. Soon he rebels against Babylon. In reprisal 
the Babylonians capture and destroy Jerusalem in 586 
B.C. taking to Babylon a large number of people and 
wealth — This is known as the Babylonian Captivity of 
the Jews — or Exile. 

Questions for Study 

1. Describe the cure of Naaman's leprosy. 

2. What was the reason for the conflict between Elijah 
and Jezebel. 

3. Describe events immediately prior to Israel's cap- 
tivity. 

4. Describe Joslah's reform. 

5. Identify the following: Elisha, Hazael, Jehu, 
Ahab, Hoshea, Zedekiah, Exile. 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 39 



I & II CHRONICLES 

The two books of Chronicles are a repetition of 
selected events that take place before the fall of 
Jerusalem In 586 B.C. Particular attention Is given to 
the many kings who rule both Israel and Judah. The 
Books are among the less popular in the Bible. A 
repetition of several centuries of Intrigue and history 
is not of great interest to many people. The useful- 
ness of these books is in the point of view with which 
the writer regards history, and the many historical 
details which he recounts. 

Beginning with I Chronicles, chapters 1 through 9 
trace the geneology of the Hebrews through each of 
the twelve tribes. Chapter 10 through the remainder 
of the book gives a brief resume of the conquests and 
death of David. It mostly is a repetition of events 
found in II Samuel and I Kings. The chronicler writes 
from the standpoint of the Southern Kingdom. His 
opinion about the North, therefore, Is prejudiced. 

In II Chronicles, chapters 1 through 9 reiterate 
the reign of King Solomon. Chapters 10 through the re- 
mainder of the book repeat the reigns of the many 
kings in both the Southern and Northern kingdoms, 
closing with the fall of Jerusalem In 586. The closing 
two verses skip to a generation later when Cyrus, King 
of Persia, is ruler of the Jews. He declares that God 
has given him world dominion, and that now God has 
charged him to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. (These 



40 THE OLD TESTAMENT 

verses are repeated in the next book, Ezra, and the 
story of Ezra continues from that point.) 

Questions for Study 

1. What is the nature of the contents of Chronicles? 
. 2. Why are these books of little interest to most 
people? 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 41 



EZRA 

In earliest times Ezra and Nehemiah were included 
under the one title of Ezra. It was the historian 
Jerome who first used the name ''Nehemiah" for 
that portion of the volume in which he is the central 
figure. In the Hebrew Bible the two books remained 
as one until 1448 A.D. 

The author of Ezra, as well as of Nehemiah, is the 
same anonymous person who wrote the Chronicles. 
Since he is so greatly concerned about the temple it 
is assumed that he is a priest or levite. The books of 
Ezra-Nehemiah are sequels to the Chronicles. They 
describe what took place during the hundred years 
from the time Cyrus allowed the Jewish Exiles to re- 
turn (538 B.C.) to Nehemiah's second visit to Jeru- 
salem (432 B.C.). Because of the drama and the per- 
sonal religious interests, the books of Ezra and Ne- 
hemiah are far more popular than the books of 
Chronicles by the same author. 

The story of Ezra opens in the first year that Cyrus 
is king of Persia. Persia has risen to prominence and 
has captured the Babylonians who, previously, had 
captured the Jews. Now the Jews are under Persian 
rule. But Cyrus declares that he has been instructed 
by the Lord to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem which 
had been destroyed by the Babylonian, Nebuchadnez- 
zar, in 586 B.C. He calls for volunteers among the 
Hebrews to return to Jerusalem and build the temple. 
He even arranges for them to take the gold and silver 



42 THE OLD TESTAMENT 

vessels which had been captured by the Babylonians. 
Chapter 2 gives a list of the leading Hebrews in many 
families who were given permission to return to Jeru- 
salem. This is an important date in Hebrew history. 

But all is not to be smooth sailing. The Samaritans 
plot to stop them from building. They send a letter 
to king Artaxerxes stating that if he would examine 
the records closely he would find that Jerusalem always 
has been a rebellious city. Therefore, it would be to 
his advantage to command all work to cease, and the 
city left in ruins. Artaxerxes accepts the suggestion and 
orders all work stopped (4:24). Soon after Darius 
ascends the throne the Hebrews request him to examine 
the records to find the original decree of Cyrus, allow- 
ing them to rebuild the temple (Chapter 5). Darius 
complies, finds the decree and grants permission for 
work to be resumed. The temple is completed. The 
feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread are held 
amid great rejoicing. 

Ezra is introduced in Chapter 7 for the first time. He 
desires to return to Jerusalem and assist in temple 
worship. Artaxerxes grants him permission to return, 
along with any priest, levite, and devout Hebrews who 
wish to return to Jerusalem. Arriving in Jerusalem, 
Ezra is dismayed to learn that so many of the Hebrews 
have married foreign wives. He goes into deep mourn- 
ing, and confesses before God the sins of the people. 
Finally, Ezra calls for all Hebrews to assemble in Jeru- 
salem. There he charges them with their sin against 
God in taking foreign wives (10:10). He commands 
them to give up their foreign wives immediately. The 
last half of the chapter lists the priests and levites 
who gave up their foreign wives and their children. 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 43 

Questions for Study 

1. What is the political condition of the Hebrews at 
the beginning of Ezra? 

2. With what opposition did the Hebrews meet in 
their attempt to rebuild the temple? 

3. How did they finally get permission to resume 
building? 

4. What sin did Ezra oppose so severely among the 
Jews? What was the outcome? 



44 THE OLD TESTAMENT 



NEHEMIAH 

Like the book of Ezra, this book opens in the court 
of the Persian king Artaxerxes where Nehemiah is a 
cupbearer. Nehemiah is saddened to learn from a 
traveler that Jerusalem is in ruins. The king notices 
his sadness and inquires the reason. He grants Ne- 
hemiah authority to return to Jerusalem and to super- 
vise the rebuilding of the walls (2:9). 

But all is not smooth sailing in the building program. 
Sanballet, governor of Samaria, begins to ridicule the 
Jews' efforts to restore the walls. "Will they revive 
the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are 
burned?" he asks (4:2). The determination and *'will 
to work" of the Hebrews is more than Sanballet an- 
ticipates. The wall is in sight of completion. Sanballet 
and the rulers of other neighboring principalities be- 
come angry with Nehemiah's success (4:7). With the 
imminent threat of force to prevent their continued 
work, Nehemiah establishes an armed guard around 
the wall to protect the workmen. An internal economic 
crisis adds a burden to Nehemiah. He solves the eco- 
nomic problem (5:6-13), and the work on the wall 
continues. 

There follows a shrewd psychological attack upon 
Nehemiah by Sanballet and his cohorts. First they 
try to call him away for a private "conference", but 
he realizes that they really seek to injure or kill him. 
The enraged Sanballet then issues an open letter charg- 
ing sedition against Nehemiah and the Jewish leaders. 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 45 

Nehemlah is accused of setting up a monarchy in Jeru- 
salem, with himself as king, and with prophets pro- 
claiming him as such (6:5-7). Such a charge was an 
attempt to stir up the Persian ruler against Nehemiah. 
As one last attempt to destroy? Nehemiah, Sanballet and 
Tobiah bribe a friend of Nehemiah to urge him to flee 
into the temple. Such an act possibly could have been 
*'used" to charge him with blasphemy against the tem- 
ple. Nehemiah refuses to be bribed. Thus, every subtle 
attempt of his enemies fails, and the wall is completed. 

The second half of the book — beginning with 
chapter 7 — describes the reorganizing and reform- 
ing of Jerusalem. With the physical equipment re- 
stored to some extent, Nehemiah now turns his atten- 
tion to the spiritual side of life. After listing the 
names of all the families who returned to Jerusalem, 
the narrator describes the assembly of all the people 
in Jerusalem while the law was read aloud by Ezra 
the Scribe. There follows the Feast of the Tabernacle 
in which the Hebrews gather in small groups all over 
the city to study the Law and make sacrifices. 

Civic and religious reforms occupy chapter 10. 
Included are such things as duties of priests, levites, 
and laymen; mixed marriages, temple tax, contribu- 
tions and tithes. Chapter 1 1 is concerned with a list 
and description of the repopulation of Jerusalem. The 
book closes (chapter 13) with reforms advocated 
by Nehemiah — such as the expulsion of Tobiah, Sab- 
bath Reforms, and mixed marriages. This seems to 
have been a second visit for Nehemiah to Jerusalem. 



46 THE OLD TESTAMENT 

Questions for Study 

1. What is the reason for Nehemiah's sadness in the 
beginning of the story? 

2. What was the task that Nehemiah was authorized 
to complete in Jerusalem? 

3. What difficulties did Nehemiah encounter in Jeru- 
salem in his work? 

4. Identify: Sanballet, Tobiah, Artaxerxes. 

5. What reforms did Nehemiah attempt? 

6. When did the Jews return from Babylon to Jeru- 
salem? 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 47 



ESTHER 

The book of Esther is unique. It contains no refer- 
ences to God nor any explicit religious teaching. These 
peculiarities are understood when its purpose is re- 
vealed; namely, to give an historical reason for the 
existence and continuation of the Jewish Feast of 
Purim, which is not authorized by the Law of Moses. 
The vehicle for this authorization is a story which has 
its setting during the period that the Jews were under 
Persian rule. 

The story opens with a great feast for his nobles 
given by King Ahasuerus. When the subject of beau- 
tiful women comes up, King Ahasuerus sends for his 
wife, Vashti, to stand before the men so that they 
might admire her beauty. Vashti refuses to obey 
(1:12). The king is quite angry, and so are the princes. 
They tell the king that his wife's disobedience to him 
could have grave repercussions throughout the em- 
pire; namely, that all other wives might decide to fol- 
low the example of Vashti and become disobedient to 
their husbands I Ahasuerus takes steps to forestall any 
such action by the women of the land. He issues a de- 
cree that every man shall be the ruler in his own house 
(1:22). 

With Vashti banished from the palace, Ahasuerus 
needs a new queen. Accordingly, he orders beauty con- 
tests held in all provinces, the winners of which are to 
come before him for the final selection. Among the 
contestants is a Jewish girl (Esther) who has been 



48 THE OLD TESTAMENT 

reared by her cousin Mordecai since the death of her 
parents. Mordecai Is one of the king's servants In the 
palace at Shushan. Esther Is chosen by Ahasuerus, and 
becomes his queen. She obeys Mordecal's Instructions 
and reveals not that she Is a Jewish girl. 

At this point In the story (2:21-23) the narrator 
relates how Mordecai once had saved the king's life 
from two ruffians. Both men were hanged, and the ac- 
count of It had been written In the book of the chron- 
icles of the king. This fact is to play an Important part 
later in the story. 

King Ahasuerus has a prince named Haman. Haman 
has the authority to require all the king's servants to 
bow before him as he passes by. But Mordecai refuses 
to bow (3 :2) . That is understandable since Mordecai is 
a strict Jew. Haman's wrath grows furious. He decides 
to get revenge on Mordecai by destroying all Jews. 
Very subtly, Haman leads Ahasuerus to believe that 
the Jewish population is Insubordinate to the king's 
rule, and receives the king's authority to have them des- 
troyed. Accordingly, the rulers In every province are 
notified that on the 13th day of the month Adar all 
Jews are to be subject to death at the hands of the 
king's soldiers. Upon hearing of this, Mordecai and 
all other Jews weep and mourn. Mordecai sees that 
their only hope is through the intercession of Esther. 
He pleads with her to go before the king and try to 
save her people. At first she refuses, but later accepts 
the challenge and asks the Jews to fast for her for 
three days and nights. 

Confronting her husband king, Esther skilfully In- 
vites him and Haman to her house for a dinner the 
next night. At the dinner she Invites them back for the 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 49 

next night. On returning to his room after the first 
dinner, the king finds that he cannot sleep. He begins 
to turn through the book of chronicles, and finds the 
account of a man named IVTordecai who saved his life. 
Upon learning that no reward has been given Mor- 
decai for his good service, the king calls In Haman 
and, without naming Mordecai, asks Haman what he 
would suggest to be done for a man who has found 
favor In the king's sight. Believing that the king is 
speaking about him, Haman boldly suggests that the 
unnamed man should be dressed In royal robes and 
led through the streets, proclaimed as the one In 
whom the king finds favor. Ahasuerus then commands 
Haman to prepare Mordecai for such an ovation, and 
to carry out the plans exactly as he had described them. 
His distasteful mission accomplished, Haman joins the 
king again for the second dinner at the queen's house. 
At this occasion Esther Informs her husband king 
that she is a Jew and that she and all other Jews will 
be destroyed unless he stops the decree that Haman 
has published. Shocked by the consequence of a per- 
mission he has granted without complete knowledge, 
the king leaves the room momentarily and returns to 
find Haman apparently trying to attack Esther for 
her betrayal. Haman is ordered to be hanged on the 
very gallows which he has prepared for Mordecai. The 
king's original decree Is neutralized by giving the 
Jews the right not only to defend themselves, but also 
to take vengeance upon all the house of Haman. At 
the conclusion of hostilities, all Jews gather for a day 
of feasting and celebrating. Mordecai commands that 
the celebration become an annual afiair — the feast 
of Purim. 



50 THE OLD TESTAMENT 

Thus, in story form, Is given the origin of the feast 
of Purim. The book closes joyfully with Mordecal ele- 
vated to a position next to the king, and providing peace 
and prosperity for all the Jews. 

Questions for Study 

1. What was the occasion that made Esther queen? 

2. What was the distasteful honor that Haman had 
to bestow upon Mordecal? Why? 

3. How did Esther prepare the king for the startling 
declaration that she had to make to him? 

4. What Is the annual celebration among the Jews 
memorializing the good work of Queen Esther? 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 51 



JOB 

The Book of Job belongs to the third division of 
the Old Testament — the Writings. Along with Ruth 
and Esther it is one of the most dramatic books in the 
Old Testament. Unlike Ruth and Esther, Job is very 
long — 42 chapters — much of which is somewhat 
difficult to follow. 

An historical analysis of the book brings out many 
important features. It seems that a story of Job was 
familiar among the Hebrews long before it was writ- 
ten down. It also seems that the introductory portion 
regarding Satan (chapters 1 and 2) was not in the 
original oral story. The speeches of Elihu (chapters 
32-37) also are regarded as supplementary material 
added to the original poem. These and other critical 
details of the book are not the primary interest at 
the moment. It is sufficient to realize that a later writer 
edited and revised a well known story to fit his pur- 
pose. The final edition of the book was around 200 B.C. 
The folk story upon which it is based goes back to un- 
known antiquity. 

Job's influence can be seen upon such literature as 
the Divine Comedy, Paradise Lost, Faust, and other 
classics. The ability of the author to use a story for a 
purpose ranks him among the greatest writers of man- 
kind. The purpose of the book of Job is to challenge 
the prevailing belief that human conduct is justly re- 
warded on this earth. From time immemorial, the He- 
brews expected blessings to accompany a good life, 



52 THE OLD TESTAMENT 

and suffering to follow an evil life. In Job that theme 
is disturbed. 

The prologue sets the stage by giving Job's place 
of residence, and declaring him to be perfect and up- 
right in every way. His family, wealth, and fame are 
described. The drama proper begins with verse 6. The 
first act Is located in heaven. God gives Satan permis- 
sion to "test" Job short of physical violence to his 
body. Accordingly Job's family, farm, and servants 
are destroyed. In spite of that he refuses to blaspheme 
against God. Act two begins with chapter 2. Satan de- 
clares to God that Job remains faithful only because 
his physical body has not been hurt. God authorizes 
Satan to test Job with bodily suffering, short of death. 
Job's affliction with boils is well known. Seeing his 
intense suffering his wife urges him to "curse God and 
die." Still Job remains faithful. Chapter 4 begins 
the three cycles of theological discussion between Job 
and his three friends — Eliphaz, Blldad, and Zophar. 
These discussions compose the major content of the 
book. Basically each of the three men reiterates the 
same belief; namely, that every human being has his 
just reward or punishment from God. Job's suffering, 
therefore, Is divine punishment for sin. He is urged 
to repent of any sin, and thus allay the awful punish- 
ment. But Job declares his three friends to be charging 
him unjustly. He consistently maintains his innocence. 
A fourth speaker, Ellhu, enters the story in chapter 32. 
Being a younger man, he declares that he has been 
hesitant to speak before the three older men. How- 
ever, he has found no solution In what they have been 
saying, so he becomes bold and asks permission to 
speak as a layman — not as a professional. He criti- 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 53 

clzes both Job and the three alleged theologians, but 
he does not offer any more constructive suggestions than 
they do. 

Finally, God enters the drama In chapter 38. He de- 
clares anew His power of creating the world and all 
things therein. He charges that neither Job nor his 
three friends show the proper attitude toward the 
power of God. Job repents (chapter 42). He inter- 
cedes on behalf of his friends whom God has charged 
with speaking folly. Because of his faithfulness to God 
under terrifying circumstances he Is rewarded. His for- 
tune is restored two fold; he is given 7 sons and 3 
daughters who are acclaimed the most beautiful women 
in all the world. The curtain closes with Job having 
lived a long and prosperous life. 

Questions for Study 

1. What permission does God grant to Satan in each 
of their two meetings? 

2. What is the basic argument of the three friends 
who come to see Job? 

3. How seriously do you think the ending of the story 
should be taken as a guide for righteous living to- 
day? Does a good life bring physical blessing? 

4. Why do people suffer? 

5. Did Jesus promise his followers protection from 
suffering? 



54 THE OLD TESTAMENT 



PSALMS 

The book of Psalms consists of one hundred and fifty 
religious poems. It is a unique book in several ways. 
For one thing it is the only one in which the words of 
man are directed to God. In the rest of the Old Testa- 
ment, the words of God are directed to man, or man's 
directed to man. Some of the psalms are liturgical 
literature — to be used in public worship. Others are 
private prayers — to be used in private devotions. 

David has been regarded as the author of psalms, 
but such an inference is highly questionable. Psalms 
1-72 do ascribe David's name, but the remainder are 
from different times and locations with no name as- 
cribed as the author. The book seems to have been 
composed from various periods in Israel's history. 
The final compilation took place between 400 and 
100 B.C. That time is during a period in which very 
little is known about the history of the Jews. The only 
historical information about the Jews from the end of 
II Kings to the beginning of I Maccabees (550-170) 
is furnished by the writings of Haggai, Zechariah, and 
Nehemiah. 

Several of the Psalms are written in a popular con- 
temporary style known as the acrostic. That is the prin- 
ciple of starting each line or couplet with another letter 
of the Hebrew alphabet. The most notable example 
of this is Psalm 119. In that psalm many Bibles signify 
the beginning of a new couplet by printing the new 
letter at the heading. Many of the Psalms have been 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 55 

set to music in their entirety. A psalter hymnal is used 
in some churches today. Many anthems are based upon 
a selected portion of a psalm. Probably the most pop- 
ular psalms are the 1, 23, 24, and 100. 

Questions for Study 

1. Which is your favorite psalm? Why? 

2. Examine a psalter hymn book. Which psalms are 
included? 

3. What is meant by an acrostic style of literature? 
Is it ever used today? 



S6 THE OLD TESTAMENT 



PROVERBS 

Several other nations beside Judah had their wisdom 
literature. The Old Testament mentions several of 
these non-Jewish sages. In I Kings (4:30, 31) three 
foreign wise men are named. Sages of Babylon, Syria, 
Edom, Arabia and Egypt are mentioned in the Old 
Testament. Indeed, a substantial part of Proverbs is 
borrowed directly from the Phoenecian or Canaanite 
sources. 

The Hebrew wise men were not given as prominent 
a place in Israel as the prophets and priests. However, 
their popular style of teaching drew large numbers 
among the common people. They directed their teach- 
ing primarily toward the youth of the nation. They 
were seeking a good life for themselves, and trying 
to teach others how to find it. There arose places 
of instruction where the teacher could sit with his 
pupils and state his truths. After the Maccabean strug- 
gle the wise men gradually disappear. Many of the 
functions of the wise men were carried on by the 
scribes in later Judaism. Like Psalms, Proverbs is a 
"collection of collections." It contains the best acrostic 
alphabet poem in the Old Testament (31 :10-31). 

The book of Proverbs contains no story or plot. 
Therefore long portions usually are not read at one 
time. It is more like an encyclopedia with every para- 
graph on a different subject. Many of the shorter 
proverbs have been made quite popular by use — such 
as, "Train up a child in the way he should go; and 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 57 

when he is old he will not depart from it" (22 :6) ; *'A 
soft answer turneth away wrath, but grievous words 
stir up anger" (15 :1). "The wicked flee when no man 
pursueth, but the righteous are bold as a lion" (28 :1 ) . 

Questions for Study 

1. To which of the three divisions of the Old Testa- 
ment does Proverbs belong? 

2. Which proverb do you quote most often? 

3. Select several proverbs and evaluate their truth. 



58 THE OLD TESTAMENT 



ECCLESIASTES 

The word Ecclesiastes usually is translated "preach- 
er" or "speaker to an assembly." Actually the book 
is quite heretical to orthodox Judaism when viewed as 
a whole. Orthodox Judaism maintained that life has 
purpose and usefulness, and that one's personal moral- 
ity makes a difference. Ecclesiastes denies all of that 
and claims that all of life is determined by a fatalism. 
There is no reward in this life, nor after death, for 
there is no life after death. Both wickedness and right- 
eousness lead to the same end — death. "Vanity of 
vanities, all is vanity" is the beginning and the end 
of the book. No wonder it had difficulty being accepted 
into the canon as holy Scripture I The book is read each 
year during the Feast of the Tabernacles probably to 
temper the happiness of the occasion with the solemn 
thought that life and happiness are fleeting. 

Chapter 1 sets the pace of the book by asserting 
that experience proves that life leads to no lasting 
gain. Neither does wisdom make any difference ex- 
cept that it may show more clearly the utter futility of 
life. In chapter 2 the writer dares to say that both 
the wise men and the fool meet the same end, and 
that human toil has no reward except whatever hap- 
piness can be found in it. So goes the book of Eccle- 
siastes through its twelve chapters. Chapter 11 urges 
one to seize upon every opportunity, but to realize that 
there is risk in everything. 

To the writer of Ecclesiastes should go the credit 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 59 

for taking a realistic view of the problems of existence, 
and trying to answer it honestly on the basis of human 
experience and nothing more. Its defense for being 
accepted into the canon is argued on the fact that it 
does contain certain religious injunctions, to wit, 
12:14 *'For God shall bring every work into judg- 
ment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or 
whether it be evil.*' 

Questions for Study 

1. What is the mood of the Book of Ecclesiastes? 

2. What do you think of human experience alone as 
the basis for explaining human existence? 

3. Why was Ecclesiastes regarded as heresy by ortho- 
dox Judaism? 



60 THE OLD TESTAMENT 



THE SONG OF SOLOMON 

Like Ecclesiastes, the Song of Solomon Is unusual and 
difficult to interpret. It seems to have primarily a secu- 
lar character, God never is mentioned in it. It is like 
the book of Esther in that respect. Like Ecclesiastes 
it had difficulty being accepted into the canon because 
of its secular nature. The Song of Solomon seems to be 
a collection of love songs by a groom, his bride, and 
friends. Because of its nature it sometimes was sung 
as a wine song. Such use of it was forbidden after its 
canonization. 

The book is interpreted many different ways by 
Christians. Some interpret it allegorically by seeing the 
bridegroom as Christ and the bride as the Church. 
Others interpret it as a dramatic presentation. Still 
others interpret it llturgically and envision its use in the 
fertility cults — such as Baalism. 

The Song of Solomon is traditionally attributed to 
Solomon. The theme is love, and consequently It con- 
tains imagery, dreams, and visions. Since it is a collec- 
tion of poems or couplets it is impossible to discuss it 
in detail. Every couplet presents a different image and 
expression of love. 

Questions for Study 

L Do you consider the Song of Solomon one of the 

more popular books of the Old Testament? 
2. What is the nature of the book? 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 61 



ISAIAH 

The book of Isaiah Is divided Into two distinct parts. 
Part I consists of chapters 1 through 39. Part II con- 
sists of chapters 40 through 66. The second part de- 
scribes events that took place a century later than the 
first part, and therefore was written by someone after 
the time of Isaiah. It is generally agreed that the dif- 
ference in historical background and theological 
thought is so prominent that it is better to examine the 
two parts as separate books. 

The Man Isaiah 

The prophet Isaiah was born in Jerusalem about 
765 B.C. and lived there until his death shortly after 
700 B.C. He was a contemporary of Amos who went 
into Samaria in the Northern Kingdom to do his 
preaching. Isaiah's primary interest is confined to the 
city of Jerusalem. He records his ministry as beginning 
''in the year that King Uzziah died" (6:1) — that is 
about 740 B.C. Isaiah had grown up in Jerusalem dur- 
ing a time of national prosperity. Merchants had ac- 
cumulated considerable wealth which Isaiah sarcastic- 
ally denounces. The death of King Uzziah in 740 B.C. 
meant a change in the economic status of the nation. 
Isaiah had a premonition of Impending disaster. He 
was married close to the time of his call to the minis- 
try, and had a son, Shear-Jackeal, which means **a 
remnant will return." A second son born five years 
later was given a name meaning "Swift spoil-quick 



62 THE OLD TESTAMENT 

prey." However, Isaiah interpreted this as simply the 
coming destruction of Damascus and Samaria (8:1-4) 
and not of Judah. At that time it seems that the prophet 
had hopes of Judah's survival. But Assyria soon rose 
to new power under the leadership of Tigleth-pileser 
III (745-727). The new king of Judah, Ahaz, rejected 
Isaiah's advice and tried to make an alliance with 
Assyria. He sent tributes of gold and silver to him as 
described in II Kings 16:8. His appeasement was not 
to stay the hand of Assyria for long. During the next 
century Judah was to be a vassel of Assyria. 

Isaiah witnessed all of this intrigue and impending 
doom. Indeed he saw the Northern kingdom, Israel, 
fall under Assyria in 722. He knew that his own na- 
tion of Judah was not far behind. King Ahaz was fol- 
lowed by King Hezekiah who tried an opposite ap- 
proach to stay the hand of Assyria. Ahaz had tried to 
avoid a conflict, but Hezekiah raised an army and tried 
to halt the rising tide of Assyria. It could not be done. 
In 701 the Assyrians, under Sennacherib, laid siege to 
Jerusalem and Hezekiah was forced to surrender. 

Isaiah witnessed these events throughout the siege 
of Jerusalem in 701 B.C. Through it all he condemned 
the foreign policies of his nation in trying to establish 
alliances and secret negotiations. The only alliance he 
would countenance was with God. Furthermore, he 
condemned the leadership of his nation as being self 
centered and debauched. For Isaiah one thing was 
clear. Any people who rebel against the laws of God 
are bound for destruction. He saw no hope for the 
nation — as such — to survive. 

Isaiah is the first of the prophets to emphasize the 
importance of vicarious suffering; that Is, one person 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 63 

(or group) suffering for another. He also says much 
about a "remnant" who will return. However, it seems 
that the "remnant" is to return to God — not to 
Palestine. f 

I Isaiah: 1-39 

Turning now to the book itself, there is no chrono- 
logical or running story to follow. The book consists 
primarily of a collection of oracles which were ex- 
panded and edited after Isaiah's death. Chapters 1-5 
generally contain oracles against Judah and Jerusalem. 
These are believed to have been written in 734 B.C. 
immediately after King Ahaz tried to appease the As- 
syrians. The second collection of Isaiah's oracles are 
contained in chapters 28-31. These were said after 
King Hezekiah refused his plea to abstain from al- 
liances with Egypt. Chapters 13 through 23 contain 
prophecies of doom against foreign nations. A few 
verses in that section probably are genuine oracles of 
Isaiah, but the major part of it was written long after 
his death. For example, chapters 13 and 14 are 
prophecies against Babylon, mistress of the world. 
But Babylon was not mistress of the world until be- 
tween 605 and 538 — a century after Isaiah's death. 
Furthermore, it is well to note that chapters 36-39 
are extracts from II Kings 18:13-20:19. 

II Isaiah: 40-66 

Some scholars divide this book into two sections: 
40-55 as II Isaiah, and 56-66 as III Isaiah. However, 
such technicality is beyond the purpose at this time. 
This second half of Isaiah manifests a tremendous 
faith in God. It addresses the Jews who were disillu- 



64 THE OLD TESTAMENT 

sioned and dejected during the Babylonian captivity and 
Immediately following. One of the most popular and 
controversial questions is the identity of the servant of 
the Lord described in chapter 42. Some have contended 
it to mean the Jews. Others see it as an individual such 
as Cyrus or the writer himself. Many Christians inter- 
pret it as the perfect description of Jesus, the Messiah. 
The book closes with an ecstatic vision of a new com- 
munity of God. The people and the land are reborn. 
The Messianic age is come. Those who refuse to pay 
homage will be subject to death by a fire that will not 
be quenched. 

Questions for Study 

1. What was the political and economic condition of 
Judah during Isaiah's lifetime? 

2. Whom do you identify as the "Servant of the 
Lord" in chapter 42? 

3. Contrast the personality and message of Isaiah 
with his contemporary Amos. 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT GS 



JEREMIAH 

The prophet Jeremiah was born about 60 years after 
Isaiah's death. He lived and prophesied, therefore, 
in that critical period beginning In 626 and continu- 
ing through the fall of Jerusalem in 586. In Jeremiah's 
early manhood the power of Assyria waned, and Baby- 
lon became the dominant nation of the world. Nebu- 
chadnezzar tightened his rule. Several thousand of the 
upper class people were carried off to Babylon. For a 
while the puppet ruler, Zedekiah, was friendly with 
Jeremiah and worked harmoniously with his Babylon- 
ian overlords. Finally, however, he tried to join with 
Egypt in restraining Babylon. In reprisal the Baby- 
lonians besieged Jerusalem and utterly destroyed it in 
586, carrying off a large number of captives. Gedallah 
was made the puppet ruler for the next ten years, at 
which time he was assassinated by Ishmael. In the dis- 
turbance that followed, some of the Jews fled to Egypt 
taking Jeremiah with them. Jeremiah's faith that Jeru- 
salem ultimately would be restored is evidenced by his 
purchase of a parcel of land in the destroyed city. For 
Jeremiah, religion is between an individual and God. 
He is getting away from the idea of the salvation of a 
community (Judah) previously held by the Jews. 

The book of Jeremiah divides itself into three parts, 
with an historic appendix in chapter 52. Part 1 con- 
sists of chapters 1-25, and could be called the words of 
Jeremiah. This section contains his oracles to Judah 
and Israel (2-6) ; a denunciation of idolatry and im- 



66 THE OLD TESTAMENT 

morality (7-10) ; warning against Jerusalem (12, 13) ; 
explanation of the great drought (14-15:10) ; miscel- 
laneous oracles (15:10-20:18) ; denunciation of kings 
and prophets (21-23) ; two visions (24-25). 

Part II is a biography of Jeremiah (26-45). This 
section discusses such items as : the consequence of 
Jeremiah's temple address (26) ; his efforts to restrain 
Judah from rebelling against Nebuchadnezzar in 593 
(27-29) ; his hopes for the future (30-33) ; his experi- 
ence under Jehoiakim and Zedekiah (34-36) ; his per- 
secution during the siege and destruction of Jerusalem 
(37-39) ; his last years (40-45) including the flight to 

) ir^art III contains prophecies against foreign nations 

(46-51). This section contains oracles and prophetic 
pronouncements against Egypt (46) ; against the Phil- 
istines (47); Moab (48); Ammonites (49:1-6) 
Edom, Damascus, Kedar, Elam and Babylonia. Chap- 
ter 52 is an historical appendix which includes the 
fall of Jerusalem in 586 quoted from II Kings. 

Among the more familiar and dramatic portions of 
the book are the visions of the almond rod and the 
■ seething pot; parable of the potter; and the persecu- 

tion and imprisonment of Jeremiah. 

Questions for Study 

1. What is the meaning of the vision of the almond 
rod? The parable of the potter? 

2. Why was Jeremiah opposed to rebelling against 
Nebuchadnezzar? 

3. What was Judah's status as a nation during Jere- 
miah's lifetime? 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 67 



LAMENTATIONS 

Each of the five chapters In this book Is a separate 
poem, complete In Itself. The first four are funeral 
dirges lamenting the destruction of Jerusalem In 586. 
The fifth Is more of a personal prayer. The first four 
are alphabetical acrostics, each stanza beginning with 
the appropriate letter of the alphabet. It Is better to 
read this book In a more correct literary style — such 
as the Revised Standard Version or any modern trans- 
lation. 

It Is easy to understand why tradition has ascribed 
Jeremiah as the author of Lamentations. Certainly It 
was written by one who experienced the awful destruc- 
tion of Jerusalem. But If Lamentations originally had 
been known to be the work of Jeremiah It would have 
been put In the group of books known as the Prophets, 
However, It was compiled at a later date and put in 
the third group — the Writings. The tradition con- 
necting it with Jeremiah arose after the first century 
A.D. This book was written not just to weep over the 
tragic destruction of Jerusalem but also to show God's 
will for His people. God's people were to maintain 
their faith in Him in spite of the terrible disaster they 
had experienced. 

Chapter I usually is called "The misery of Jeru- 
salem." The city is described as a widow; as one with 
no lovers to comfort her; as one whose beauty and 
strength is all gone. Chapter 2 declares that Jeru- 
salem's miseries are the result of Divine Judgment 



68 THE OLD TESTAMENT 

upon the sins of the people. God is the subject of nearly 
half the sentences in the chapter. Chapter 3 is the 
longest of all chapters, with 66 verses. Each of the 
other chapters has 22 verses. This chapter is a personal 
lament and prayer. "Let us test and examine our ways, 
and return to the Lord. Let us lift up our hearts and 
hands to God in heaven; we have transgressed and re- 
belled, and thou hast not forgiven." (3:40-42). Chap- 
ter 4 contrasts Jerusalem's glorious past with her piti- 
ful present. "Her princes were purer than snow, whiter 
than milk; .... Now their visage is blacker than soot." 
Chapter 5 is a prayer. The miseries of captivity are 
described, and God's mercy sought. "The joy of our 
hearts has ceased; our dancing has turned to mourn- 
ing; . . . Restore us unto thyself, O Lord, that we may 
be restored! Renew our days as of old." 

Questions for Study 

1. Why has it been natural to ascribe Lamentations to 
Jeremiah, the "weeping Prophet?" 

2. What is the faith which the author desires his 
people to have? 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 69 



EZEKIEL 

The book of Ezekiel Is divided into four main divi- 
sions. Each division pretty well can be dated and placed 
by the events which it describes. Indeed, no other 
prophetic book, except Haggai and Zechariah, offers 
such exact dates and chronology. Fourteen dates are 
scattered through the book. They range from the 5th 
year of the captivity, which would be 593 B.C., to the 
27thyear, or 571 B.C. 

Ezekiel seems to have been 20 or 30 years younger 
than Jeremiah. His ministry runs from 593 to 571. The 
fall of Jerusalem in 586 divides Ezekiel's career in two 
sharp contrasts. After 586 Ezekiel's allusions to the 
history of his own people cease. From that time on he 
regards the Exiles as the nucleus of a new community. 
For the people of Jerusalem before the fall, Ezekiel 
has nothing but contempt for their rebellious nature. 
For those who go into exile, Ezekiel has great affection, 
and he expects the birth of a new nation to come from 
them. The Book of Ezekiel is a book of transition. It 
was the last book to be accepted in the prophetic canon. 
Ezekiel comes to the conclusion that the Jews' contri- 
bution will not be in politics but in religion. 

Part 1 (chapters 1-24) is spoken in Jerusalem be- 
ginning in 593 B.C. He addresses his message to the 
inhabitants of that city announcing the impending 
doom. Notice how Ezekiel dramatizes the future des- 
truction of Jerusalem and the exile. He draws a picture 
of the city and then destroys it (4:1-3) ; he lays on his 



70 THE OLD TESTAMENT 

left side (symbolizing Israel) for 390 days; and he 
lays on his right side (symbolizing Judah) for 40 days. 
These figures indicate the number of years the two 
countries will be in exile (4 :4-6) . He eats barley bread 
cooked with human refuse as fuel, symbolizing the im- 
pure food that Israel will eat in the land of the exiles 
(4:12-15). Thus, Ezekiel employs allegory and drama 
to make his message clear. 

Part II (chapters 25-32) contains oracles against 
foreign nations. His primary targets are Tyre and 
Egypt, but he also includes such nations as Ammon, 
Moab, Edom, Philistia. In his oracle against Egypt 
(29-32) he calls Pharaoh a great crocodile dragged 
out of the Nile river and slain. 

Part III consists of chapters 33-39. In this division 
the future restoration of Israel is envisioned. In the 
place of the sinful rulers of Israel, God Himself will 
gather His scattered sheep, feed them and protect 
them (34:11-22). In another vision Ezekiel sees a 
valley of dry bones come to life (37:1-10) symboliz- 
ing the restoration of Israel. 

Part IV consists of chapters 40-48. It is a vision of 
a restored Israel, and Is dated April 17, 572. The 
division of the land among the 12 tribes Is given. Finally 
he envisions a stream of life flowing from the temple 
which turns the desert into a garden, and the dead sea 
Into a fresh water lake filled with fish (47:1-12). This 
fourth division of the book is a step In the direction of 
apocalypticism which is to come into prominence dur- 
ing later centuries. Apocalypticism means an imaginary 
flight Into the future with little or no regard for the 
meaning of facts. As might be expected, many of the 
predictions prove to be untrue. 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 71 

Questions for Study 

1. What is the meaning of the "valley of dry bones?" 

2. What influence did the political conditions of Judah 
have on Ezekiel? 

3. How does Ezekiel use drama and allegory to 



preach his message 



12 THE OLD TESTAMENT 



DANIEL 

The book is divided into two parts. Part I (chapters 
1-6) contains stories of Daniel and his friends remain- 
ing true to their religion in spite of persecution. Part II 
(chapters 7-12) contains Daniel's four visions which 
describe the end of pagan rulers and the coming of 
God's kingdom. 

The writing of the book of Daniel is very late — 
the second century B.C. However, it is written from the 
standpoint of one living in the 6th century. The closer 
to the 2nd century he comes, the more accurate and 
detailed are his descriptions. It now is accepted that 
this book was written during the reign of Antiochus 
Epiphanes (175-164) who is known in history as *'the 
little horn" — the same name that he Is called in 
Daniel 7 :20-27, thereby giving accurate proof as to 
the late date of the book. 

Chapter I is the introduction of the story of Daniel 
and his three friends. The Imaginary setting is during 
the Babylonian captivity. Taken captive by Nebuchad- 
nezzar in 606 B. C, Daniel and his friends are per- 
mitted to live In the king's court. They refuse to violate 
Jewish laws by partaking of the king's food. Chapter 
2 begins with Nebuchadnezzar's dream and his efforts 
to have it interpreted. Daniel is given divine wisdom to 
interpret the dream, and he discloses to Nebuchadnez- 
zar Its meaning. Daniel Is praised for his wisdom and 
elevated to the position of governor of Babylon. 

Chapter 3 describes the experience In the fiery fur- 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 73 

nace of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego when they 
refuse to worship a golden idol. To Nebuchadnezzar's 
astonishment they emerge unhurt. He elevates them to 
a high position in the government. Chapter 4 describes 
Daniel's prophecy that for seven years Nebuchadnez- 
zar will be insane and live like a beast; then return to 
sanity. Chapter 5 contains the account of the mysterious 
writing on the wall while Belshazzar and his court were 
drinking in Jerusalem. That same night Belshazzar was 
slain, and Darius, the Persian, ruled. Chapter 6 is the 
well known story of Daniel in the lion's den. Jealous 
over Daniel's power and favor in the sight of Darius, 
the other prominent rulers induce Darius to issue a de- 
cree that no prayers could be uttered except to the 
king. Daniel continues his daily prayers to God, and 
Darius is forced to cast him in the lion's den. On find- 
ing Daniel unharmed, Darius orders Daniel's enemies 
to be thrown to the lions, and orders his subjects to 
reverence Daniel's God. 

Part II of the book begins with chapter 7. Daniel 
has a vision of four beasts that are explained by an 
angel to mean the four pagan kingdoms of Babylon, 
Media, Persia and Seleucid (Greek). The human 
figures represent the Jews. The little horn is Antiochus 
Epiphanes. Chapter 8 is the second vision. It is a ram 
and a buck. Gabriel explains to Daniel that the ram 
represents the Medo-Persian kings; the buck is the 
Greek kingdom; the buck's horn is Alexander the 
Great, and the four horns are the kingdoms of Mace- 
donia, Thrace, Syria and Egypt. Chapter 9 contains 
the third vision. The meaning of the 70 years of Jeru- 
salem's desolation, as predicted in Jeremiah 25:11, is 
explained by Gabriel. He shows Daniel that the 70 



74 THE OLD TESTAMENT 

weeks are actually 70 weeks of years (490 years). 
These fall into three periods of 7 weeks, 62 weeks, and 
one week, after which the messianic kingdom will come. 
Chapters 10-12 contain the fourth vision. It is a descrip- 
tion of the final period preceding the messianic age. It 
covers the period from 538 to the death of Antiochus 
Epiphanes in 164. 

The date of the writing of Daniel can be definitely 
set at between 168 and December 165 B. C. The 
events described In this period by the author are quite 
accurate. After 165, however, the writer moves Into 
the realm of apocalypticism. For example, he predicts 
the death of Antiochus Epiphanes to take place be- 
tween Jerusalem and the Mediterranean, but actually 
he was killed In Persia In the winter of 164. 

The book of Daniel was not yet written when the 
prophetic books were canonized about 200 B. C. Con- 
sequently, the book is listed in the third section of Old 
Testament literature — The Writings. Daniel and 
Ecclesiastes are the latest religious writings in the Old 
Testament. Yet these two are quite opposite In their 
theology. Daniel sees final triumph of righteousness 
(Judah) ; Ecclesiastes Is an heretical book, claiming 
that righteousness wins no favor from God. No doubt 
the book of Daniel gave courage to the devout Jews 
struggling under persecution to look to the future for 
their hope and glory. 

Questions for Study 

1. How does the term ''little horn'* help date the 
writing of Daniel? 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT IS 

2. From what century does the author allege to be 
looking at history? 

3. Contrast Daniel with another late book, Ecclesias- 
tes, and the mood In which it is written. 



76 THE OLD TESTAMENT 



HOSEA 

This book Is the first of that group known as "The 
Book of the Twelve" — consisting of 12 books from 
Hosea to Malachl. These twelve were put Into one 
volume in order to balance the number of latter 
prophets with the former prophets. The former 
prophets are Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings. The 
latter prophets are Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and 
'The Book of the Twelve." 

Hosea is one of the four great prophets of the 8th 
century. The other three are Amos, Micah, Isaiah. He 
is a contemporary of Amos. Unlike Amos, he is from 
the North (Israel). Amos is from Judah and goes 
North to Israel. Hosea's ministry seems to have begun 
around 744 B. C, critical years preceding the fall of 
Samaria (and the Northern Kingdom) in 722. Hosea's 
sensitive soul is disgusted with Baal worship which had 
increased during the reign of Jeroboam II. Baalism was 
a fertility cult that sought to increase the productivity 
of fields and flocks. It was natural that such a cult 
should lead to promiscuous sexual indulgences Including 
temple prostitutes who symbolized the act of fertility 
and the reproductive process. Hosea Is thoroughly dis- 
gusted at such pagan vulgarity. 

The Book of Hosea is composed of two main sec- 
tions: chapters 1-3 and 4-14. Married to a prostitute, 
Gomer, Hosea gives his three sons symbolic names to 
announce the fall of the doomed nation. Chapter 3 
describes the intense love which Hosea has for his way- 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 77 

ward wife, and his yearning to redeem her at any price. 
Hosea comes to realize that Israel like his wife, has 
been untrue to her lover, God; but God yearns to win 
again the love of His people. More than any 
other prophet, Hosea portrays God as a God of 
love, God's love is unanswered until man responds. 
Chapters 4-14 describe Israel's unfaithfulness to God. 
Over and over Hosea declares that a spirit of harlotry 
has led the people astray (4:12; 5:4; 9:1). Hosea 
sees the unfaithfulness of the people as having its be- 
ginning during the period of the wilderness wander- 
ings (9 :9-10; 10:9). Israel's sin is in her breaking the 
''covenant of love" with God. By conforming to her 
pagan environment Israel began the practice of Baalism 
and had fallen prey to sexual indulgences and drink- 
ing (4:11; 7:41). Hosea is able to see that the kind 
of God which a man worships determines the kind of 
moral quality which that person will acquire. 

At first Hosea has hopes that his nation will turn 
their hearts to God in love (2:7, 14). Later he sees 
that there is to be no conversion of the nation, and 
that God would be forced to execute His people ( 13 :3- 

Chapter 14 is an epilogue written by an editor in the 
postexilic period. This chapter paints a picture of a 
glorious resurrection of the nation following its des- 
truction. Its writer is seeking to bring Hosea's message 
up to date with what happens after the exile. 

Questions for Study 
1. How does Hosea's wife compare with Israel? 



78 THE OLD TESTAMENT 

2. What characteristic of God does Hosea show more 
clearly than any other prophet? 

3. Why does the kind of God In which a person be- 
lieves effect that person's morality? 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 79 



JOEL 

The immediate cause of Joel's prophecy is locust 
plagues that he sees as a judgment from God and as a 
warning of the fateful "Day of the Lord." The book 
is divided into two main sections. Chapters 1-2:27 deal 
with the present; and chapters 2 :28-3 :21 deal with the 
future. This second division is a part of that literature 
known as apocalypticism — a fanciful projection into 
the future. 

Overcome by the locusts and drought, the people are 
urged to return to a forgiving God (2:12-14). God 
promises to remove the locusts and provide abundant 
food as proof of His favor to His people ( 2 :1 8-27 ) . 

Part II begins with the declaration that God's spirit 
will be poured out on all ages of people (2:28, 29). 
"... your old men shall dream dreams, your young 
men shall see visions ..." On the fateful Day of the 
Lord the faithful will be delivered, but pagan nations 
will be slaughtered because of their cruelty toward the 
Jews (3:2, 3). Judah and Jerusalem will remain es- 
tablished forever and God will dwell therein (3:19- 
21). 

Written about 400 B. C, the book of Joel clearly 
shows the transition from prophecy to apocalypticism. 
Nationalism is rising; the individual is receding. Under 
constant disappointment, Jews like Joel try to explain 
that God's time has not yet come. Joel also sees God 
as so holy and transcendent that a priest is necessary 
for mediation between God and man. 



80 THE OLD TESTAMENT 

Questions for Study 

1. What significance does Joel attach to the locust 
plagues? 

2. What is prophesied to happen to the Jews and to 
pagan nations on the "Day of the Lord?" 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 81 



AMOS 

The prophet Amos was the first of the four prophets 
of the eighth century. His ministry seems to have be- 
gun about 750 B. C. when he was a shepherd near 
Bethlehem. He goes to the Northern kingdom, how- 
ever, to speak his message. It must be remembered that 
the Northern kingdom had established shrines in var- 
ious places to take the place of the Jerusalem temple 
(see I Kings 12 ; 20-30) . These shrines and their priests 
were regarded by the Southern patriots as Illegitimate 
and outside the Deuteronomic tradition. Amos dares 
to go to the Northern court of Samaria to speak his 
stern message. He called the ladles "cows of Bashan" 
(4:1-3). At Bethel, the religious center of the North- 
ern kingdom, his ministry was brought to an end by 
Amaziah, the chief priest of the shrine there. Amaziah 
sent a report of Amos' "heresy" to King Jeroboam II 
who ordered Amos to cease preaching and return to 
his own land in the South. 

Amos' short ministry is like a bright flash that 
shines for an Instant and is consumed. He condemned 
the accumulation of wealth at the expense of the poor, 
and the offering of sacrifice and ritual without right- 
eousness. Amos saw the failure of religious and poli- 
tical leaders. He believed that privilege requires re- 
sponsibility. The justice and morality of God is the 
central theme of his message. "Let justice roll down like 
water, and righteous like a mighty stream." 

The book of Amos is divided into three parts : chap- 



82 THE OLD TESTAMENT 

ters 1-2; 3-6; and 7-9. The first section consists of dec- 
larations against six foreign nations, then against Judah 
and Israel. Israel is his main objective, so he gives more 
attention to it (2 :6-16). The second part is a collection 
of brief sermons pronouncing doom on Israel. God 
has warned the nation through famine, drought, and 
destruction of cities, but Israel has refused to heed 
God's chastisement. Consequently, a desolation shall 
fall upon them worse than they ever have experienced 
before. Exile shall mark their end. 

The third section (7-9) contains a series of visions 
— such as locusts, fire, and plumb line (7:1-9) fol- 
lowed by a brief account of the conflict between Amos 
and Amaziah the priest (7:10-17). The book closes 
(chapter 9) with an epilogue written by a later editor 
portraying the return of the Exiles and the restoration 
of the Kingdom of David. 

Questions for Study 

1. Where did Amos go to proclaim his message? 

2. What qualities of God did Amos emphasize? 

3. What was the conflict between Amos and Amaziah? 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 83 



OBADIAH 

This book consists of only one chapter — 21 verses. 
That one chapter Is divided Into two sections. Verses 
1-14 discuss the judgment that Is to fall upon Edom 
for her cruelty toward the Jews during their terrible 
persecution from the Babylonians In the sixth century. 
Obadlah declares that God Is humbling the Edomites 
by allowing them to be plundered by their former allies. 
The reason for this judgment upon Edom Is because of 
Edom's cruelty to her sister nation, Judah (11-14). 
This first part of Obadlah was written about 460 B.C. 
It Is of interest to note the parallel between verses 1-9 
and Jeremiah (49:7-22). 

The second part of the chapter consists of verses 
15-21. It no longer remains true to historical facts but 
goes into an apocalyptic rendition of the "Day of the 
Lord" when Israel will be restored. The writer fore- 
sees the reunion of the Northern and Southern tribes 
and their conquest of Edom (18). The new kingdom 
of Israel shall expand in all directions and eventuate 
into the Kingdom of God (19-21). 

The major Idea of Obadlah is God's moral judgment 
upon nations throughout history. He also declares with 
great assurance the coming of the Kingdom of God. 
It is natural that he would defiine the Kingdom in 
terms of Israel and Palestine. 



84 THE OLD TESTAMENT 

Questions for Study 

1. Against what country does Obadiah pour out his 
protest? What was the cause for hatred? 

2. Can you see a basic distinction between verses 
1-14 and 15-21? 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 85 



JONAH 

The book of Jonah is quite different — and a wel- 
come difference — from the other books in the Book 
of the Twelve. Jonah relates the prophet's adventures 
but practically nothing of his message. The other eleven 
books contain primarily the message of the prophet 
but little of his history, 

Jonah is a parable. In a time when Israel had a 
spirit of bitterness toward other nations, the prophet 
sought to awaken among the Jews a sense of their mis- 
sionary destiny. They were to save — not destory — 
other nations. The story of Jonah is the vehicle for 
presenting that message. 

Called by God to go preach salvation to the wicked 
citizens of Nineveh, Jonah refuses to obey God's com- 
mand. He tries to escape from God by going on a 
boat into foreign waters. In the midst of a great storm 
Jonah confesses his sin to the sailors and they throw 
him overboard at his request. Picked up by a whale 
he is deposited on dry land. God commands him a 
second time to go preach to Nineveh. This time he goes. 

The picture of Jonah in Nineveh is most amazing 
(chapters 3, 4). The people of Nineveh repent and 
are spared — much to Jonah's regret. He wants to 
see the whole city destroyed by the wrath of God. In 
his anger and disgust Jonah goes out to the edge of 
the city and rests in the shade of a vine. In a sudden 
ending to the story God tells Jonah that He has the 
right to pity and save any city that repents of its sins. 



86 THE OLD TESTAMENT 

The date of writing Jonah Is between 400 and 350 
B.C. The narrowness of Judaism had been Increased by 
the reform of Ezra In 444 B. C. In which he called for 
a strict limitation of Judaism to Its own people. The 
book of Jonah dares to show that God has Interests 
In other nations besides Israel. It might be regarded 
as the first missionary book In the Bible. 

Questions for Study 

1. Why was Jonah disgusted In Nineveh? 

2. What spirit did Jonah try to awaken among the 
Jews? 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 87 



MICAH 

Micah is the fourth of the eighth century prophets. 
In contrast to Isaiah, Micah is an humble villager. His 
primary concern was the degradation of the poor for 
the enrichment of the wealthy. In that respect he Is 
similar to Amos. 

MIcah's ministry seems to have taken place between 
the years 714 and 700 B.C. The Northern kingdom 
of Israel had fallen in 722, and Micah can see impend- 
ing doom over his Southern Kingdom of Judah. He 
knows that unless Judah's internal and international 
relations are carefully preserved the nation is bound 
for disaster. Even though Micah Is listed as one of the 
"minor" prophets it is important to remember that such 
a description is based entirely upon the quantity of 
the writing and not its quality. Micah never should be 
rated as a "minor" character — of minor Importance. 
Jeremiah (26:19) recognized that Micah instituted an 
Important reform among the people of Judah. 

MIcah's prophecy begins with a warning of an Im- 
pending judgment (1 :l-4). The capture of Samaria in 
722 is envisioned as extending to the gates of Jeru- 
salem. In chapter 2 Micah opens his denunciation of 
the rich who sell women and children into slavery and 
plunder those who seek peace. (2:1-4). In a mood of 
sarcasm Micah declares that the only kind of prophet 
some people want Is one who would preach untruthfully 
about wine and strong drink. In chapter 3 Micah turns 
from the masses of the people to their leaders. He de- 



88 THE OLD TESTAMENT 

clares that the rulers accept bribes for the perver- 
sion of justice. Jerusalem is to be plowed under like 
a field as the result of the sins of its inhabitants and 
rulers. 

The second part of Micah (chapters 4-7) is an addi- 
tion made by an unknown writer after the Exile. Chap- 
ters 4 and 5 portray a restored Jerusalem to which 
people will come in great numbers to worship God. 
Peace will be enjoyed by the whole world. All dis- 
persed Jews will be returned to Jerusalem, and God's 
kingdom will be established there. (4:6-8) . The future 
Messianic king will come from Bethlehem like his 
ancestor David. He will restore Israel and rule the 
whole world. 

Chapters 6 and 7 are still another addition to the 
original. In a dramatic setting a court scene is described 
in which God is the prosecutor and judge; Israel is the 
defendent. Upon pleading guilty the nation inquires 
if her sins can be atoned by burnt offerings. God 
answers that the only requirement is "to do justly, and 
to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God" 
(6:6-8). In chapter 7, a postexilic vision, there is the 
promise that Jerusalem will prosper again, but that 
the rest of the world will become desolate (7:11-13). 

Questions FOR Study 

1. In what political and religious climate did Micah 
live? 

2. Describe the court scene in chapter 6. 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 89 



NAHUM 

This book Is the work of a poet and a passionate 
nationalist. He gives full vent to his anger against 
Nineveh. It is somewhat reminiscent of the bloody 
*'Song of Deborah" (Judges 5). Nahum gives a vivid 
description of the slaughter of cavalry, the capture of 
the queen and her attendants, the crumbling of Nineveh 
and its total ruin. Such Imaginary scenes appear as If 
they are being described by an eye witness. The book 
was written between 660 and the conquest of Nineveh 
in 612 — to which it looks forward. 

The book opens with an acrostic poem (1:1-9). The 
alphabetical arrangement, however, was seriously re- 
arranged and supplemented by a later writer about 300 
B. C. The acrostic is followed by a long poem (1 :ll- 
3:19). This envisions the attack, punishment, and de- 
struction of Nineveh. In brief, Nahum's theme is that 
Nineveh will feel the last of God's judgment because 
of her cruelty to Judah. He is quite different from 
Amos, Hosea and Isaiah who sees the judgment of God 
upon their own nation even more than upon a foreign 
nation. Nahum's religious insights can not be com- 
pared with such other prophets as Amos and Hosea In 
the Book of the Twelve. 



Questions for Study 

1 . To the destruction of what foreign city does Nahum 
look forward? 



90 THE OLD TESTAMENT 

2. Contrast Nahum's religious Insights with those of 
Hosea. 

3. What is the reason for the difference? 



I 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 91 



HABAKKUK 

Habakkuk begins by raising the question, "When 
will help come?" God answers by saying that the 
Chaldeans are being used to punish the Hebrews. 
Habakkuk is even more puzzled. "How can evil 
Chaldeans be used by God?" The answer is that the 
Chaldeans' victory is only temporary. The final triumph 
will be for the Jewish remnant. God tells Habakkuk to 
write His message plainly upon a tablet so that "a 
running man could read it" (2 :2) . Habakkuk is led to 
see that "the just shall live by his faith" (2:4). 

Habakkuk understands that tyranny brings its own 
self destruction. He declares five woes upon those who 
are cruel and unjust to others (2:6-20). Those five 
woes are (1) Injustice breeds rebellion (6-8) ; (2) Evil 
gain does not bring security (9-11); (3) Cruelty breeds 
cruelty (12-14); (4) Degrading others brings self 
degradation (15-17); (5) Idols are useless (18-19). 
Chapter three is a psalm of praise, the final verses of 
which declare the author's inner joy in spite of outer 
adversity. "I will rejoice in the Lord; I will joy in the 
God of my salvation." (3:18). 

The original work of the prophet Habakkuk was 
written about 600 B. C. when he saw the Chaldeans 
rising to power. In the third century B. C. the psalm 
(chapter 3) and other miscellaneous verses were 
added. 



92 THE OLD TESTAMENT 

Questions for Study 

1. What question does Habakkuk ask God? 

2. Compare Habakkuk's "The just shall live by his 
faith" with the Apostle Paul's quotation of it 
in Romans 1 :17. 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 93 



ZEPHANIAH 

Zephaniah prophesied about 630-624 B.C. 25 years 
before Habakkuk — perhaps immediately before the 
reforms of Josiah in 621. The main oracle in the book 
is 1:4-18 in which the prophet denounces Judah for 
her worship of other gods. He condemns those who 
feel secure that God will not punish them. In the same 
part of the oracle he is appalled at the coming of the 
Scythians. He proclaims the anticipated coming of the 
Day of the Lord. His description of the horrors that 
will accompany that Day of the Lord is unsurpassed in 
Hebrew literature. ''That day is a day of wrath, a 
day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and 
desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of 
clouds and thick darkness, . . .*' (1:15-18). 

Chapter 2 is a series of oracles against foreign na- 
tions such as Egypt, Moab, Ammon. Chapter 3 an- 
nounces the final judgment of God (3:8-20), with the 
wicked removed from Israel and the beginning of the 
Millennium. When the book of Zephaniah had been 
completed by Its last editor it had taken on the arrange- 
ment of other prophetic books; namely, the denounce- 
ment of the prophet's own people, then a denouncement 
of foreign nations, and finally a vision of the future 
glory of Israel. 



94 THE OLD TESTAMENT 

Questions for Study 

1. What was Zephanlah's complaint against Judah 
and Jerusalem? 

2. Describe the glorious future described in 3:14-20. 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 95 



HAGGAI 

Haggal Is probably best known as one of the four 
prophets who sought to rebuild the city of Jerusalem 
and especially the temple there. Since 586 the temple 
had been In ruins. Now, In 520, Haggal and Zecharlah 
lead the people to begin rebuilding the temple. 

Haggal's message begins with the declaration to 
Zerubbabel and Joshua that the crop failure and 
drought came as a result of the Jews building fine 
houses for themselves but neglecting to rebuild the 
temple of God (1 :1-11). As a result work begins on 
the temple. After one month's work Haggal arouses 
the criticism of those who contend that the new struc- 
ture can not measure up to the old one. He declares 
that the glory of the new one will surpass the old one 
because of much financial aid from the Gentiles (1 :15- 
2:9). 

HaggaPs third oracle (2:10-19) Is wrongly dated. 
It should read *'on the 24th day of the sixth month** 
rather than "ninth month." This oracle was given on 
the day the construction was started. He contends that 
the sacrifices offered on the site of the destroyed temple 
are of no value. With the laying of the cornerstone 
for the new building, however, he declares that God 
will bless the people from that day. 

The fourth and final oracle Is delivered after con- 
struction had progressed for three months. Haggal 
promises the people that God will destroy the power 
of the Gentiles and make Zerubbabel, of the house of 



96 THE OLD TESTAMENT 

David, his signet ring — meaning the Messiah (2:20- 
23). Haggai looked upon Governor Zerubbabel as the 
long expected Messiah. Quite logically, then, he felt 
that if God is to establish His kingdom soon His 
temple should be made ready. Hence, Haggai's pas- 
sion to rebuild the temple. From history it is apparent 
that Zerubbabel never became the Messianic King as 
Haggai believed he would. Instead, Zerubbabel dis- 
appeared quite suddenly. It is assumed that upon hear- 
ing of the kingly plans of Zerubbabel, the Persian rulers 
became alarmed and imprisoned or killed him. 

One other observation needs to be made regarding 
Haggai. In his opposition toward the Samaritans 
(2:10-14) can be seen the beginning of a rigid narrow- 
ness and nationalism which was to become a character- 
istic of postexilic Judaism. 

Questions for Study 

1. Why is Haggai so interested in rebuilding the 
temple? 

2. What great future did Haggai see for Zerubbabel? 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 97 



ZECHARIAH 

Zechariah is designated as the son of Berechlah and 
the grandson of Iddo (1:1). At other places In the 
Old Testament he Is designated simply as the son of 
Iddo, with no mention of Berechlah (Ezra 5 :1 ; 6:14; 
Nehemiah 12:16). The Insertion of Berechlah in this 
book probably was done by a later editor who mistook 
him for "Zechariah, son of Jeberechlah" mentioned in 
Isaiah 8 :2. 

Be that as It may, Zechariah's prophecy was contem- 
porary with that of Haggai, but extending two years 
longer. The beginning date definitely can be fixed In 
November, 520 (1:1). The closing date is December 
7, 518 (7:1). Of the fourteen chapters in the book 
only the first eight should be regarded as the work of 
Zechariah, son of Iddo. Chapters 9-14 are a later work, 
and should be treated separately. 

Zechariah 1-8 

The main body of chapters 1-8 consists of a series 
of eight visions and their interpretations: 

( 1 ) 1 :7-17 is the vision of the four horsemen — each 
on a different colored horse. These divine messengers 
declare that even though there is no apparent sign of 
the coming of the Messianic age the Temple in Jeru- 
salem should be rebuilt, and the heathen nations feel 
the wrath of God. 

(2) 1 :1 8-21 is the vision of the four horns (represent- 



98 THE OLD TESTAMENT 

Ing heathen nations) and the four smiths who will des- 
troy them. 

(3) 2:1-5 Is the vision of a man with a measuring line. 
It teaches that Jerusalem can not have a wall because of 
Its vast population. Furthermore, the city does not need 
a wall because God will be ''as a wall of fire'' around 
her. There follows an appeal to those In exile to re- 
turn from Babylonia. 

(4) 3 :1-10 Is the vision of the trial of the high priest, 
Joshua. Dressed In filthy garments he is accused by 
Satan, but Is acquitted by God and dressed In elegant 
clothing. 

(5) 4:1-14 describes the golden candlestick; seven 
lamps; seven pipes; and two olive trees. The lamps 
symbolize the eyes of God; the two olive trees, the two 
anointed ones — ^Joshua and Zerubbabel. ZerubbabePs 
Importance Is enhanced by the fact that he has laid 
the foundation of the new temple In Jerusalem and 
that he will remain to complete the building. 

(6) 5:1-4 portrays a flying scroll destroying the houses 
of thieves and liars. 

(7) 5:5-11 shows a woman In a barrel, symbolizing 
wickedness, being carried to Babylonia by two winged 
women. 

(8) 6:1-8 shows four chariots drawn by different 
colored horses going In four directions to patrol the 
earth. 

Verses 9-15 are an historical appendix, greatly 
changed and obliterated. The theme of It Is the crown- 
ing of Zerubbabel as the Messiah by Zecharlah. As his- 
tory knows, Zerubbabel's crowning was met with dis- 
pleasure by the Persian rulers. He mysteriously dis- 
appeared from the scene without ever occupying the 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 99 

throne of David. To conceal this failure on the part 
of Zerubbabel and Zechariah, the passage later was 
changed and the name of Joshua substituted for Zerub- 
babel (6:11). 

Chapters 7 and 8 contain Zechariah's answer to 
questions regarding fasting. He declares that fasting 
has very little spiritual value, but the practice of 
morality is all important. In 8:17 God seeks to bring 
comfort to those who have become discouraged with 
the continued postponement of the coming of the Mes- 
siah. God declares that a great future awaits the Jews 
provided they become upright in word and deed. Like 
his contemporary Haggai, Zechariah must share part of 
the responsibility for Judaism taking on a narrow ex- 
clusiveness in postexilic times. 

Zechariah 9-14 

This section partly is based on historical facts and 
partly apocalyptic. The interpretation of some of the 
allegories, and the object of some of the oracles, never 
has been discovered. For example, 11:4-17 contains a 
description and threat against some particularly wicked 
foreign nation which might have been easily recognized 
then, but now is undefined. 

The section closes (chapter 14) with a brilliant 
description of the events which will accompany the 
dreadful "Day of the Lord." With Zechariah, as with 
other apocalypticism, it is essential to approach the 
writing in the light of the contemporary situation. Only 
in that way can the faith, hope and expectations of the 
Jews be understood. 



100 THE OLD TESTAMENT 

Questions for Study 

1. What physical improvements were taking place In 
Jerusalem during Zecharlah's prophecy? 

2. What was the explanation of the vision of a man 
with a measuring line? 

3. What was the reason for discouragement among 
the Jews of Zechariah^s time? 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 101 



MALACHI 

The name Malachi was given to this book by an 
editor who believed that he had found the name of the 
author at the beginning of chapter 3 — "My Messen- 
ger" — malakhi. The date of the writing is about 450 
B.C. — or at least before 444 since there is no refer- 
ence to the reform work of Nehemiah which began 
in that year . 

Malachi faced a difficult situation. He wanted to 
strengthen the feeble faith of the Hebrews. Since he 
was not a man of brilliant insight his arguments sound 
somewhat naive. In answer to those who felt that God 
no longer loved them, Malachi points out that the Edo- 
mites were in a worse condition than they were ( 1 :2-5 ) . 
In answer to those who believed God winked at injus- 
tice and allowed the wicked to prosper, Malachi con- 
tends that God soon would separate the righteous 
from the wicked (3:15-18). 

Malachi believed that the spiritual and economic 
misery of the people can be cured by correcting the 
sin that had crept into the worship of God. Correct 
procedures are vitally important to Malachi. Such a so- 
lution is far different from that of Amos 300 years 
earlier who envisioned God as demanding something 
more than right ritual. Malachi is concerned about such 
sins as robbing God of tithes and offerings (3 :18), and 
about priests who offer blemished sacrifices at the altar 
(1:6-2:9). Jewish men who divorce their wives to 
marry Gentile women also receive Malachi's stern re- 



102 THE OLD TESTAMENT 

buke. Malachi believes that marriage is a covenant re- 
lationship and not a matter of personal convenience. 

The closing verses of the book (4:4-6) form the 
conclusion to the "Book of the Twelve." It is a brief 
summary of what the editor believed was the main 
theme of the Book of the Twelve. The coming of the 
Lord is preceded by a messenger who is none other than 
Elijah the prophet. It was natural for Elijah to be the 
one envisioned for this position since he had ascended 
to heaven In a chariot, and therefore would still be 
available for a return to earth. 

Questions for Study 

1. How does Malachi try to strengthen the waning 
faith of the Jews? 

2. Contrast Malachi and Amos in the kind of sins 
which they denounced. 

3. Who is to be the messenger preceding the coming 
of the Lord? 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 103 



THE BOOKS OF THE APOCRYPHA 

In addition to the thirty nine books that compose 
the Old Testament, there also is a group of fourteen 
other books that often have been included in the Old 
Testament because of their literary or historical value. 
While Protestants usually have regarded their impor- 
tance as secondary, these books have persisted through 
the centuries. They were not present in the early He- 
brew Scripture, but were included in the later Greek and 
Latin collections. 

The apocryphal books, with one or two exceptions, 
were a part of the Bible of the early Church, 
for they were in the Greek translation known as the 
Septuagint, which was used by the early Church. In 
400 A. D. St. Jerome brought out his famous Latin 
Vulgate translation, and included the apocryphal books 
scattered through the rest of the Old Testament. It 
was left to Martin Luther in 1534, eleven hundred 
years after Jerome, to put all the apocryphal books 
together at the end of the Old Testament. It remained 
that way through the early English Bibles, including 
the King James Version of 1611. 

However, the Puritans of England and America dis- 
approved of the apocryphal books, and requested copies 
of the King James Version be printed without them. 
Gradually, the books of the Apocrypha have disap- 
peared from most Bibles. Today they are found mainly 
in special translations or editions of the Bible. Also, 



104 THE OLD TESTAMENT 

they are included in the Old Testament used by the 
Roman Catholic Church. 

I ESDRAS 

Written about 100 B. C, the major part of I Esdras 
is based upon the books of Ezra-Nehemiah. Chapter I 
gives a brief history leading up to the story. It begins 
with a description of the elaborate preparation and 
celebration of the Passover as ordered by King Josiah 
(641-610 B. C). It declares that this Passover was 
the greatest Passover celebrated since the days of 
Samuel, There follows a brief account of Judah's strug- 
gles against Egypt, her captivity by the Babylonians, 
and finally her release by the Persians 

Chapter 2 begins the main story. Its similarity to 
the book of Ezra is quite obvious. As in the book of 
Ezra, King Cyrus of Persia permits the Jews to re- 
turn to Jerusalem to rebuild the city. The difficulties 
of that building program are described. Enemies suc- 
ceed in having the order suspended. Chapter 3 is the 
story of King Darius proclaiming a literary contest 
on the subject, "What is the strongest thing on earth?" 
Three answers were given: the wind, the king, and 
truth. Zerubbabel, who declared truth strongest, was 
declared winner. He was granted permission to rescind 
the order that stopped work on rebuilding Jerusalem. 
The closing chapters (8 and 9) describe Ezra's grief 
over the Jews' laxity in keeping the Law. Especially 
was he horrified to find so many had married foreign 
wives. After an impassioned plea against such practice, 
many of the priests, levites and laymen gave up their 
foreign wives and children. The book closes with the 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 105 

celebration occasioned by Ezra's public reading of the 
Law to the multitude gathered in Jerusalem. 

II ESDRAS 

This book was compiled from several writings from 
65 B. C. to 120 A. D. Therefore, it is the latest of all 
the apocryphal books of the Old Testament. It is quite 
apocalyptical in nature, especially in chapters 3-14. It 
does not have the historical quality of I Esdras. In- 
deed, it is somewhat misleading to give both books the 
same name because of their great differences. 

Opening with Ezra the prophet preaching to his own 
people in captivity, the book moves into apocalypticism 
(chapter 3). Ezra is reminiscent of the wickedness of 
men since the time of Adam. There follows a group of 
questions and answers with the Lord. God declares to 
Ezra that He has not revealed His judgment to all 
men, but only to few men like Ezra (8:62). As in 
much apocalypticism there are strange creatures who 
arise and speak to the prophet. Chapter 1 1 describes 
an eagle coming out of the sea with three heads and 
twelve wings which covered all the earth. There fol- 
lows an interpretation of the words spoken by the lion 
and the eagle. The closing chapters are a bit more 
realistic, concluding with an appeal not to fear or doubt, 
for God is your guide. 

TOBIT 

Tobit is a popular story taken from the Jewish Dis- 
persion in Egypt. It was written in the 3rd century 
B. C. and was based upon some well known Egyptian 
legend. 



106 THE OLD TESTAMENT 

Tobit Is greatly discouraged when he is blinded 
(2:10). He prays to God for help. At the same time a 
similar prayer for help is uttered by a woman, Sarah, 
in Media, who lost seven husbands before she could 
bear a child. The prayers of both Tobit and Sarah are 
answered. Tobit was cured of his blindness, and Sarah 
was given to Tobit's son, Tobias, as a wife (3:17). 
The remainder of the book tells how those two miracles 
were accomplished. Young Tobias went to Media 
where he took Sarah for his wife. When he and his 
bride returned home, he rubbed fish gall in his father's 
eyes, as prescribed by an angel. Sight was restored. 
There follows a prayer of thanksgiving from Tobit 
(chapter 13) . The final chapter tells of Tobit's old age 
and death. Tobias returned to the land of his father- 
in-law, whose property he inherited and where he lived 
long enough to hear the joyful report of the destruction 
of Nineveh. 

JUDITH 

The setting of this story is during the reign of Nebu- 
chadnezzar. Judith, a Jewish widow, succeeds in out- 
witting and slaying one of Nebuchadnezzar's generals 
who has been sent to plunder the land and force all 
people to worship Nebuchadnezzar as a god. Written 
during the 2nd century B. C, Judith is the legend of 
a heroine. 

King Nebuchadnezzar orders his commanding gen- 
eral, Holofernes, to capture all foreign people and 
to plunder their land. Holofernes and his army plunder 
to the border of Judah. The Hebrews are mournful 
as they visualize the inevitable defeat of their coun- 
try. Judith enters the story in chapter 8. Irritated at 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 107 

the lack of determination on the part of the people, 
she declares that God will deliver them by her hand, 
but that she can not tell them how it will be done. 
Making her way to the enemy camp, Judith wins the 
favor of Holofernes. She succeeds in getting him drunk 
at a party. When he falls unconscious, Judith cuts off 
his head and sends it back to Judah as proof that she 
has accomplished her mission (13:8-11). The closing 
chapter (16) contains a song of thanksgiving and a 
final description of the fame of Judith both during her 
lifetime and after her death. 

ADDITIONS TO THE BOOK OF ESTHER 

About 100 B C. this book was written to add some 
details and make some changes in the book of Esther. 
The authorization for Haman to exterminate all Jews 
is given in greater detail. Likewise there is given a 
more detailed description of the beauty of Queen 
Esther and the response of the king when she entered 
the royal throne to make her request of him. 

A second letter from Artaxerxes, this time praising 
the Jews and rescinding the order of Haman, is given 
a fuller treatment. Finally, this additional material 
closes with Mordecai interpreting Artaxerxes' dream. 
The river represented Esther; the two dragons, Ar- 
taxerxes and Haman; those who would destroy the 
Jews, the heathen; and the nation that cried to God, 
Israel. 

THE WISDOM OF SOLOMON 

This is one of the more valuable books of the Apo- 
crypha. Written about 6S B. C, its purpose was to 
combat the radicalism of the book of Ecclesiastes. It 



108 THE OLD TESTAMENT 

will be remembered that Ecclesiastes begins and ends 
in despair. It sees no hope or joy in life or in death. 
The Wisdom of Solomon, however, declares that such 
reasoning is unsound. *'Those who trust in Him will 
understand the truth, and those who are faithful will 
cling to Him in love, for His chosen will find favor 
and mercy." (3:9). Furthermore, it asserts that God 
is kind and true, longsuffering and merciful, and to 
know His might is the root of immortality (15:1-3). 
The closing chapters of the book show the punishment 
of those who oppose the Jews, and the triumph of the 
faithful. 

ECCLESIASTICUS 
(THE WISDOM OF SIRACH) 

Written about 180 B. C, Ecclesiasticus is a book of 
proverbs similar in style to the book of Proverbs. It 
begins by declaring that "all wisdom comes from the 
Lord, and remains with Him forever." Many practical 
instructions are given in short, concise statements such 
as: *'Do not envy the glory of a sinner; for you do not 
know what disaster awaits him" (9:11). *'A wise man's 
knowledge abounds like a flood, and his counsel is like 
a living spring." (21 :13). 

Beginning with chapter 44, the book varies from its 
course of random proverbs, and begins to praise fa- 
mous men of old. There follows descriptive praise for 
such men as Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jacob, Aaron, 
Levi, Caleb, Nathan, David, Elijah, Elisha, Hezekiah, 
Josiah, Israel, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zerubbabel. The 
book closes (chapter 51) with a strong appeal for 
righteousness and wisdom. 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 109 

THE BOOK OF BARUCH 

This book is written under the assumed name of 
Baruch, the private secretary of the prophet Jeremiah. 
The sixth chapter sometimes is regarded as a separate 
writing — "The Epistle of Jeremiah." Baruch con- 
tains many exhortations to faith and denunciations of 
idolatry. The greater part of the book was written in 
the first century A. D. but was given the historical 
setting of the Babylonian captivity when the captives in 
Babylon learn that Jerusalem has been burned. 

The first three chapters are addressed to the high 
priest, Jehoiakim, in Jerusalem The exiles confess to 
him that their afflction under Nebuchadnezzar and his 
son, Belshazzar, has come on them because *'we have 
been disobedient to the Lord our God, and we have 
been neglectful in not obeying His voice." (1 :19) . 

Chapters 4 and 5 are a change in mood from fatalism 
to hope. "Take courage, Jerusalem, for He who named 
you will comfort you. Those who did you harm and 
rejoiced at your fall will be miserable." (4:31, 32). 
"Arise, Jerusalem, and stand upon the height, and 
look away to the east, and see your children gathered 
from the setting of the sun to its rising, at the com- 
mand of the Holy One, rejoicing that God has remem- 
bered them." (S'S), 

Chapter six is the "Epistle of Jeremiah," allegedly 
written by the prophet to give instructions to the cap- 
tives in Jerusalem who soon would be taken to Babylon. 
He tells them that while they are in captivity they will 
see gods of silver, gold and wood worshipped by the 
Babylonians. He urges the Hebrews not to be deceived 
into worshiping such idols because idols have no power 



110 THE OLD TESTAMENT 

whatsoever. The entire chapter points out in specific 
terms the futility of pagan gods. 

THE STORY OF SUSANNA 

(SUSANNA AND THE ELDERS) 

This is a first century B. C. addition to the Book of 
Daniel. It was written to enlarge upon tlie power and 
judgment of the hero. Susanna is described as the 
righteous and beautiful wife of Joakim in Babylon. 
Two of the Elders of the people were selected as 
judges, and they would use Joakim's house as a court 
in which to try cases. Seeing Susanna frequently, the 
two Elders became greatly infatuated with her. Catch- 
ing her alone in the garden, they give her the choice of 
submitting to their desires or of being accused by them 
of having illicit relations with another man. Her right- 
eousness will not allow her to submit to their desires, 
so she takes her chances at being falsely accused in 
court. As she was about to be put to death, God heard 
her cry and sent Daniel to rescue her. By examining 
the two Elders separately, Daniel is able to prove 
their testimony to be conflicting and false. Susanna was 
saved, and Daniel's reputation was increased in the 
estimation of the people. 

SONG OF THE THREE HOLY CHILDREN 

This is another addition to the book of Daniel. It 
usually was inserted right after the 23rd verse of the 
third chapter of Daniel. As can be surmised, the three 
holy children were the three Hebrew friends of Daniel : 
Hananiah, Mishel and Azariah. (Usually known as 
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego). The story begins 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 111 

with the three of them In the fiery furnace, as de- 
scribed in the third chapter of Daniel. Azariah prays 
to God for deliverance. They are unharmed by the 
flames, and in joyful praise all three of them bless the 
Lord for his goodness to them. They call upon every 
part of God's creation also to sing praises to God 
(verses 34-67). 

BEL AND THE DRAGON 

This short chapter of 42 verses contains three brief 
stories of the wisdom and skill of Daniel. Verses 1-22 
tell how Daniel proved to the Babylonian king that the 
food which supposedly was being devoured by Bel, the 
idol, actually was being eaten by the priests and their 
families. By scattering ashes over the floor, Daniel 
catches the footprints of men, women, and children. 

Verses 23-27 relate how Daniel, without using 
sword or stick, killed a serpent which was regarded as 
a god. Making lumps of pitch and hair, he fed them to 
the serpent, causing its death. 

Verses 28-42 describe how Daniel was saved from 
being devoured by lions. The prophet, Habakkuk, in 
Judea, miraculously was transported by God to Baby- 
lon, carrying a bowl of special food for Daniel. Daniel 
eats it and is saved from death. In his place the king 
throws the men who tried to bring about Daniel's 
destruction. 

THE PRAYER OF MANASSEH 

This is the shortest of all books of the Apocrypha. 
Written in the 1st century B. C. it was intended to be 
a supplement to the account of Manasseh's conversion 



112 THE OLD TESTAMENT 

(II chron. 33:13). Parts of this prayer have been 
picked up and used in Christian liturgy. The prayer 
mainly contains Manasseh's open confession of his 
sins, and a plea for forgiveness. It was intended to 
show the humble spirit which Manasseh exhibited in 
the presence of God, and the transformation that fol- 
lowed. 

I MACCABEES 

This is one of the best sources for the period from 
175 B. C. to 135 B. C. It describes with accuracy the 
Maccabean revolt 'down to the death of Simon Macca- 
bee in 135 B. C. Beginning with the conquest of Alexan- 
der the Great, the historian traces events after his 
death — especially the persecutions under Antiochus 
Epiphanes. Chapter 2 begins the heroic work of 
Mattathias and 5 sons: John, Simon, Judas, Eliazer, 
and Jonathan. These are known as the Maccabee 
brothers. After the death of their father, Judas be- 
came the leader of his brothers in the war for inde- 
pendence (3 :12). 

It would be too involved to describe the exploits of 
the Maccabean rebellion. The writer of I Maccabees 
traces the rebellion through the relatively peaceful 
and established reign of Simon, and closes with the be- 
ginning of John's leadership after the death of his 
father, Simon. It is of interest to note that the na- 
tional independence of the Jews at that time was their 
last national independence until the recent founding of 
the state of Israel after World War II. 



ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 113 

II MACCABEES 

II Maccabees is a mixture of history and fiction. It 
describes the period leading up to the Maccabean re- 
volt under Mattathias, and the rule of Judas to 161 
B.C. The author of the book describes his work as 
being an abridgment of a much longer work written by 
Jason of Cyrene (2:23). The book closes with the 
defeat and death of Nicanor at the hands of Judas 
and his army. 

Questions for Study 

1. Compare the Roman Catholic and Protestant eval- 
uation of the Apocrypha. 

2. What did Martin Luther do with the Apocrypha? 

3. Identify the following: Septuagint, St. Jerome, 
Tobit, Susanna. 

4. What was Judith's heroic act? 

5. What is the ''Epistle of Jeremiah?'' What instruc- 
tion and appeal does it give? 

6. Describe any two of the additions to the book of 
Daniel 

7. What is the historical value of I Maccabees? 



I 



A Study Guide To The Old Testament 

"The Old Testament, Its Intent and Content" is writ- 
ten for the person who wants to know why the Old Testa- 
ment was written, and what each Book tries to tell. It might 
be described as a summary of each Book. The briefest 
summary consists only of a few sentences; the longest, only 
a few pages. The book is not meant to be read as a sub- 
stitute for the Old Testament, but rather as a preview to 
what will be found in each Book. 



The books of the Old Testament are a widely varied 
group, usually divided into three main divisions: Law, 
Prophets, and the Writings. The books of the Law consist 
of the five books. Genesis through Deuteronomy, commonly 
called the Pentateuch. The Prophetic books are subdivided 
into two groups, the former and the latter prophets. The 
last group, called Writings, is comprised of a miscellany of 
independent works, including short stories and the Psalms. 
In addition, the Apocryphal books, which seldom appear 
in Bibles today, but which the author feels are a tremen- 
dously important part of the Bible, are also summarized. 
The questions at the end of each chapter are designed to 
lift up the essential elements of the Book. 



The purpose of this book is to serve as a guide for the 
better understanding of the intent and content of the books 
of the Old Testament. It does not pretend to present a 
detailed study of the Bible, but is content to be used as a 
guide book for students and similar groups of people who 
desire to attempt more than just a casual reading of the 
Old Testament. 

Cloth, Price $2.50 
THE CHRISTOPHER PUBUSHING HOUSE, BOSTON